WFH vs Hybrid Work
Back in 2020, as COVID-19 began to take hold, we wrote a blog about “making work from home work for you”. Unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures as many firms (and lawyers) grappled with how it was all going to work.
Fast forward two years and there has been plenty of conversation about how WFH has worked (or not worked) from lawyers and clients alike. The topic of work from home (WFH) has been widely dissected, particularly this year as many of our clients sought to bring staff back into the office on a more regular basis. And those clients were not alone in their sentiment, with Tesla recently directing staff back to the office.
A recent article in the Australian Financial Review set out the arguments we are seeing from both sides quite well. From what we have seen, it seems the pendulum swung a little too far, though it probably had to in extraordinary times, in order to manage workforces in a global pandemic. But now as we begin to come out the other side, the benefits of having staff in the office more often than not in many industries are too strong to ignore.
Sure, flexibility and hybrid work practices have been one of the few gifts this pandemic has delivered the legal industry: an industry which was behind many other white collar industry sectors when it came to work flexibility. However, WFH more often than not (or permanently) has seen many issues play out.
One of the biggest issues with mostly WFH that we hear, be it from junior or senior lawyers, is they miss the collaboration and learning that being in an office provides. A big reason cities exist is to foster shared learning and collaboration which is something that can’t be replicated over Zoom or Teams meetings. For young lawyers, this has manifested in concern over a lack of training, mentoring and on the job learning. For senior lawyers, we have heard issues with delegation but also with being able to walk down the hallway and thrash out an idea or problem or pop out to see a client.
While WFH has many benefits with efficiency (losing the commute, allowing you to do errands at home etc.) we have also heard from many lawyers that they have felt cut off from their teams. Many also find it very hard to turn off when the study (or kitchen table) is “just over there” to punch out a few more emails. The noise that the kids (for those that have them!) bring when they arrive home from school can be a disturbance for many. Put simply, the boundary between home and work has become blurred causing angst for many lawyers.
For many people, the biggest reason they work with an employer is the work culture or the colleagues they spend their working days with. This is an issue that many employers with great cultures are now grappling with. Particularly with salaries increasing so much in recent years (check out our most recent salary survey), for many businesses work culture is a big draw card. For high performing work cultures a lot of that high performance comes from building off others energy (and experience). Many of tomorrow’s (and today’s) “superstars” risk getting lost when they don’t have enough support from senior staff causing them to look elsewhere. It is also hard to see someone’s real talent without working closely with them. Having people back in the office more often than not is the only way to have that work culture work its magic.
While some people thrive on WFH and are more efficient, others find the distractions and isolation actually negatively impacts their productivity. Everyone is different and this is where creating a balanced hybrid work environment with people in the office more often than not (or with great flexibility) seems to make it work for employees at either end of the spectrum.
Like most things in life, finding the balance is key. As the world works out what “normal” now looks like, finding the balance with WFH will be critical for employers and employees alike. Finding a law firm or business that can get the balance right will for many lawyers be important in their development and future balance of their career. Do you feel you have the balance right for you? Get in touch with us if you would like to have a confidential discussion on your career and finding the right balance.