The COVID-19 global pandemic brought the workforce to a halt in early 2020 when government shutdowns mandated employers to send employees home and cease operations. Seemingly overnight, employers were faced with mounting challenges that caused some companies to shutter their doors forever while others were forced to adapt as quickly as they could to new workplace restrictions. Suddenly, in an industry that has stymied work-life balance for as long as it could, law firms were required to make uncustomary decisions that allowed staff and attorneys to work remotely. Fast forward 18 months and law firms have been able to gradually return to the office—some quicker than others and some doing away with the hybrid workforce altogether. But a hybrid schedule, the combination of remote and in-office work, has had an impact (both positive and negative depending on which side you are on) on how employees feel about being required to work in the office full-time. Employees are now craving the flexibility given to them after the pandemic hit and are jumping ship when law firms are doing away with their pandemic-imposed work-from-home policies. Even though some law firm executive committees have happily restored their face-time requirements and no longer allow for hybrid working, law firm leaders will be remiss if they do not take a long hard look at what that will mean for the 2022 workforce and beyond.
After almost two years of working remotely, law firms have been challenged to rethink the traditional work model. The massive shift to remote work helped to reveal the value of attorneys and staff having the freedom to work from home even if it’s part of the time. As a followup to the Forbes article “Going Hybrid: The Future of Work Is Here,” according to a Microsoft’s 2021 report, 73% of employees surveyed expressed a desire for flexible remote work options post-pandemic, and 66% of businesses said they were considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. While some firms are transitioning to a more flexible remote work option, others are eager to return to a more old-fashioned workforce by bringing their employees back into the office. The law firms who do not adapt to the new demands of the post-COVID workforce, may run the risk of losing their employees who became accustomed to working remotely, and splitting time between the office and home by working a hybrid schedule. Many employees no longer want to work for an employer who requires them to be in the office full-time. Some employees are even considering looking elsewhere if their firm doesn’t extend a remote work policy. Offering a hybrid schedule to attorneys and staff is critical if your firm wants to continue to attract and retain diverse talent.