The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything, including the way law firms work – by April 2020, about 40% of law offices had adopted a hybrid work model, and that number has increased. Today’s trend is often tomorrow’s accepted norm, and the hybrid work model is no exception, due to the benefits it offers for both the business and its employees.
A hybrid work model combines remote and in-office work, which provides both structure and flexibility. This flexibility extends to the number of days in and out of the office, which can be tailored by each law firm to fit their needs in a way that both reduces expenses and increases productivity, with a number of firms adopting a 40% / 60% model, meaning employees work remotely 40% of the time, with no set days in the office. The main requirement is meeting client needs, however or wherever that happens.
The reasons law firms should welcome the hybrid work model
A hybrid work model means big savings for law firms. One recent study showed that businesses could save $11,000 per year per employee who works from home two-to-three days per week.
These savings come from:
- Productivity increases. Increased productivity comes from reducing things that drain employee time and energy, such as commuting. It’s been shown that it takes 15 minutes to 25 minutes for an employee to recover from a distraction. While you might think that working from home would create even more distractions, surveyed employees said they lose 35 minutes less per day working remotely.
- Lower real estate costs. There’s been a shift from a high-density office environment to an activity-based one, a work style that lets employees choose from a variety of settings according to the nature of what they are doing. This model combined with remote working, can save law firms millions on real estate costs.
- Less absenteeism. Remote working means less exposure to sick coworkers, makes it more feasible for people to work even when they aren’t feeling well enough to go into the office, and reduces stress. Remote workers report greater happiness, and they get more time for self-care, which can reduce sickness and improve productivity.
- Increased business continuity. Remote work saved the day during the pandemic when it came to keeping law firms running, but the business continuity benefit of remote working extends to things like weather events or other natural disasters.
- Reduced turnover. Staff turnover can cost a law firm between 10% and 213% of salary, and that’s just for the time it takes to recruit, interview, onboard and train. You’re also looking at project delays, disrupted team dynamics and stalled onboarding of new clients.
Law firms should keep in mind that 82% of people currently working from home want to continue doing so at least one day a week, and a third are willing to take a pay cut of up to 5%, and about 25% would sacrifice 10% of their salary. A recent report also found that more than 67% of attorneys want to work remotely at least part of the time.
There’s no going back to the old “normal.” The bottom line is that the shift to a hybrid work model is the future of the law firm working environment.
The challenges and benefits of a hybrid work model
The traditional office environment has always appealed to law firms – large spaces, meeting rooms, a hub of attorneys and support staff. The pandemic meant a quick adaptation of a remote work model and accelerated digital transformation. This presented a number of challenges, but also a number of benefits that firms can continue to reap when adopting a hybrid work model.
The common challenges
Law firms have a reputation for being behind the curve when it comes adopting digital transformation and giving employees the tools they need to work remotely, but as all organizations have had to embrace technology to survive, so did law firms, joining the 80% of businesses that put at least some digital projects on the fast track in the past year.
The challenges law firms faced in 2020 are still some they face today, including:
- Adjusting to a new way of working. A rise in calls and emails to the IT help desks was seen in the early days of remote working, but most legal employees (77%) said they feel they can continue working effectively from home.
- Properly equipping employees. Law firms traditionally supply employees with a desktop computer. This meant, and will continue to mean, that firms will have to spend money on laptop computers, screens, printers, scanners, and whatever else they need to perform their job successfully and efficiently outside of the office.
This challenge was met with partial success – about 17% of remote law firm employees are still using their personal computers to do their work, which represents a significant security risk to company data.
- Lack of coordinated, managed IT services. When staff work from home, you face “shadow IT” issues. This means employees download and install software tools they need without considering the consequences in terms of hacking, data loss, and creating issues with Software Asset Management (SAM). Unapproved software carries its own risk, but unlicensed or counterfeit software can result in unlimited fines or imprisonment.
How your law firm benefits
We’ve covered some benefits of a hybrid work model, but if you remain unconvinced, here are more statistics:
- Workers can save up to $4,000 per year in commuting, parking and food expenses.
- Staff gains 11 days per year of work time because of a reduced commute.
- Job opportunities and recruitment aren’t constrained by geography – you can find the best person for the job, no matter where they live.
The entire narrative around work changes completely and becomes more strategic, focusing on where people and teams can have the greatest impact.
Using the right technology and managing it properly, along with the right approach means your law firm can capitalize on the best aspects of a hybrid work model: productivity, efficiency, security, savings, engagement, and retention, all at the same time.
Creating the optimum hybrid work environment
The success of a hybrid work model takes both planning and policy development.
Make a plan
Make a plan NOW. Start the conversation internally, reach out to an IT managed services provider to start filling technology gaps right away, to protect your firm, your clients and your data. Ask yourselves these questions:
- Will your current IT infrastructure support a mobile workforce?
- How will you set and maintain proper security? Do you need new policies and defenses?
- Do you need new software for your employees to effectively work remotely as well as hold and attend meetings?
- What about the software you already have? Does anything need to be reconfigured? Is there another tool that would work better?
Also consider employee engagement – how, with a hybrid work model, will you cultivate an inclusive dynamic, hold team-building activities, and a way to replicate the “water cooler” conversations using perhaps a chat app. Don’t neglect to think about training and evaluations, and be sure to have regular check-ins to measure how things are working.
Develop a work from home policy
Draft a work from home policy, and be extremely clear about which employees it applies to and when it applies. Will everyone be able to work from home or only those in certain jobs? Will the ability to work remotely be temporary or will it be permanent?
Don’t set policy blindly. Speak with staff and find out what they need to be successful. Some things to include in your policy:
- Set expectations for availability and consistent working hours for each team member, and keep a calendar of some kind where this information is recorded.
- Specify preferred communication methods, whether that’s email, a messaging app, a phone call, or a video meeting.
- Make sure all of your staff have access to what they need – files, tools, images, etc. – and a place to do it. Set expectations for a quiet, well kept place when video meetings are conducted, especially with clients.
And possibly the most important policy of all: security. A great way to build strong cybersecurity awareness for your employees is to work with your IT managed services provider to create a cybersecurity checklist.
Equip staff for success
A hybrid work model for your law firm can be enacted much more easily with a turnkey IT enterprise solution that provides all of the hardware, software, security, management, and support your business needs, as well as your employees, on a secure cloud.
You’ll then have enterprise-level, state-of-the-art, consistently updated security, data available anywhere, managed backups, and the support you need, along with the ability to scale as your practice grows.
Everything in one place, with easy access for employees, no shadow IT, and support is always available from your managed services provider.
Meet the challenges and reap the benefits with Vertex
Since 2008, Vertex’s team of committed and passionate IT professionals
have been dedicated to the success of our clients’ GTA law firms. By delivering exceptional results along with impeccable customer service, we give you a best-in-class managed IT experience.
We have specific expertise in legal technologies, and as your IT partner, Vertex both recommends and integrates the best law firm applications, workflows, efficiencies and customized systems to eliminate downtime, enhance IT security and increase your law firm’s productivity.
We deliver tangible results to our clients: they gain up to $3,000 per month on average through working with Vertex.
Tangible results, best-in-class managed IT solutions and an entire team of Toronto IT professionals dedicated to your law firm’s success – that’s the Team Vertex Advantage. Get in touch today.