WORK FROM HOME

As understanding of problems associated with coronavirus has grown, more and more law firms have opted to give their staff flexible work hours, offering them the chance to spend more time working from home.

And it appears that a continued tendency to allow work-from-home may be one of the few beneficial legacies of dealing with the pandemic.

A significant number of law firms are saying they will continue with more flexible working policies, even as many countries start to look towards a return to normal life as the virus – hopefully – subsides.

PwC Legal has said that staff can expect to work from home for around 40 to 60 percent of their working weeks. The company has also said it will start “empowered days”, which will allow its UK staff to decide their own work patterns.

Meanwhile DLA Piper has announced a policy that will allow all staff outside the US to work from home for two days each week.

Another international law firm with a significant presence in Hong Kong, Simmons & Simmons, says it will allow staff to work from home for two or three days a week, even after restrictions related to coronavirus are lifted.

These a just a few of the companies that say they will continue with flexible work arrangements in the wake of covid-19.

But it’s not just fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic that is driving the trend towards more flexible work options.

Law firms are discovering the reciprocal benefits of allowing staff to work from home. A better work-life balance means happier staff, and happier staff are more productive. And the policy also helps contend with increasing office rent prices: if a certain proportion of staff can work from home every day then a smaller office can be used.

According to the Hong Kong Law Society, the covid-19 pandemic has, in general, “proved conclusively that lawyers can work effectively outside the office and that a physical presence in the office is not necessarily essential in order to produce high quality legal work.

“This proof of concept will have important implications as to the way in which, and where, legal work will be performed. The presenteeism culture which has plagued law firms for years, which assumes that long hours in the office is a demonstration of commitment and productivity, may at last change”.

However there are still certain issues that firms will have to address. With people working from home, law companies will have to be extra vigilant over confidentiality and security, as documents and computers are at potential risk of being seen or accessed by third parties.

Firms will also have to find ways of maintaining team contact; so new technologies and group platforms such as Zoom will have to be used for virtual meetings and conferences.

By BEN COOPER, Managing Partner, Ashford Benjamin Ltd.