Are you questioning whether you should implement (at least to some extent) a permanent “working from home” policy at your firm once the threat of COVID-19 wanes?
You’re not alone.
Since the issuance of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, there’s been a surge of commentary and studies concerning the effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on the business landscape, including shifting views on the feasibility of a remote workforce.
Could this perceived future trend be a benefit to your legal practice?
Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about making long-term workplace changes.
- Employee satisfaction
How will your employees react to being untethered to a physical office space?
Staying at home during this crisis may feel more like a bad work-life mashup than a balance; however, as kids slowly begin returning to school and gatherings of ten or more people become common again, you or members of your team may desire the freedom that working from home can afford.
Benefits of a permanent home office include non-existent commute times, a more comfortable environment, a refuge from office politics and gossip, enhanced autonomy, as well as enhanced flexibility in terms of when, where and how you and your staff complete job responsibilities.
It also lifts the expectation of a fixed 9-to-5 schedule—creating more opportunity for your staff to enjoy family, friends and other aspects of life that don’t necessarily occur within the confines of a standard business day.
But of course, there are downsides too. While some may embrace a more isolated environment, others may desire social interaction and engagement, or need someone else to set a structured schedule.
A physical office space generally equates to significant, reoccurring payments for rent, utilities, equipment, internet and other miscellaneous services.
Not only can you, as a firm owner or manager, save money on overhead if you shift to a remote workforce, but your employees will also likely experience some financial benefit. According to one USA today article, “[r]emote workers typically save about $4,000 a year by working from home,” in part, by cutting expenses associated with commuting, food and attire.
COVID-19 forced your firm to swiftly make major logistical adjustments to how it conducts business.
Your team has spent weeks adjusting to the “new normal” of video conferencing, participating in telephonic arguments and utilizing other tools and techniques to maintain productivity.
Even managers or executives who were most fearful or skeptical of the practice became obligated to accept and participate in this COVID-19 imposed trial period for remote work.
Therefore, as a matter of necessity, you’ve worked out many of the glitches and obstacles firms often confront when slowly transitioning employees over to telecommuting. It caused you to make the change, adopt new IT measures and employ a heightened level of trust in your staff’s ability to function efficiently without the oversight and pressure of your physical presence—or that of their peers.
Consequently, you’ve overcome a majority of the organizational, technical and cultural barriers to implementation and seen, at least to some extent, how well it’s worked out.
Of course, when your workforce is remote, there’s still a significant concern over privacy and data protection obligations, but you’ve now had the opportunity to identify any issues and work towards resolving them.
What we’ve all come to realize is there’s not going to be a full return to the “old way” of doing business after this crisis, which includes how your firm will return to the office in the next coming weeks, months or year.
Because each person and each office situation is unique, this decision of whether to adopt a permanent teleworking policy rests largely on whether it fits within your company’s culture and is a sound financial decision for your firm.