Hybrid Working in 2021: What Have We Learned From the Past Year?

Over the past year, we have seen a number of challenges unfold due to lockdown restrictions and an economic slow-down, but we are positive that these hurdles have forced businesses to think critically about the future of work. As a boutique firm, we have focussed not only on ensuring that the quality of our service continues to improve, but also that we are thinking practically about how we approach remote working.

We have had a lot of insightful conversations in recent weeks, and there are two schools of thought within the legal sector. Some believe that the future of work is remote, and that we should embrace the tangible benefits that come with the flexibility of working from home. However, there are many firms and partners who crave the normality that comes from working in an office, particularly in a sector that has always been rooted in face-to-face contact. 

A recent article published in Law.com supported this, stating that some partners are changing their minds on flexible working policies, as some previously “rushed in to” making said decisions. Firms such as Mischcon de Reya have offered unlimited flexibility which naturally, is a benefit for those who need it. However, there have been other firms who have made the executive decision to be completely remote for the foreseeable future, retracting previous flexible working policies they had implemented.

We cannot ignore the benefits of remote working

A silver lining which should be taken from the past year is that there are undoubtedly a plethora of benefits to remote working, regardless of the industry. Increased productivity, better work-life balance and saving money on travel expenses are some of the most common. 

It has also forced a lot of businesses to assess how they operate, and has led to 43 out of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers to embody a hybrid working model. Working remotely even showed us, as business owners, that great work can be achieved without having to come into an office. However, these are all benefits that can often just apply to a small group of individuals.

The line between personal and work has been blurred

One of the key motivators for law firms and their partners choosing hybrid models over 100% remote is due to burnout from lack of work-life boundaries. The inability to decompress over a daily commute, or have a quiet space to focus on work has caused many to be less in favour of remote working, and we understand the conflict that some partners may be faced with as we enter this transitionary period. 

In client facing roles within the legal sector there is nothing more valuable than human contact, and we have experienced this first hand with our clients and talent network. The opportunity to business develop in person is crucial for relationship building, and there are some conversations that simply do not translate well over a Zoom or Teams meeting. 

Particularly for trainees and junior associates, learning through osmosis and being a part of the social aspect of a team is what makes work enjoyable, and if that is lacking, it could inevitably affect retention and employee satisfaction. 

The crux of this conversation is that there cannot be two extremes. Although we are firm believers that being in the office is crucial to growth both from a financial and cultural perspective, there has to be an element of compromise when we have spent the most part of fourteen months in complete isolation. The past year has taught us how there is not a one size fits all approach to remote working and each firm should create a hybrid model that works for them. 

Whether this is allowing flexibility for those who need it occasionally, or adapting to a 50/50 model which works to keep culture and human connection intact, it is crucial to develop a way of working that will serve you well, especially as we are entering a pivotal transition period from June 21st.