In-Person or Hybrid Workforces Roundtable: Part 1 Summary
I recently had the pleasure to participate in an ILTA roundtable discussing Return to Work and Hybrid Workforce topics. As is the policy with ILTA roundtables, it was not recorded. However I do have some highlights to share.
We started asking participants how much various groups at their firms planned to be in the office via a poll. The results were interesting. For lawyers the vast majority of responses were 2-3 days per week (76%). Similarly about two thirds (68%) of the responses were at 2-3 days per week for non IT support staff. Interestingly 2-3 days still led for IT support staff but at a lower percentage of 50%. The poll did not have a choice for 0, and some even noted they would select that. There was also a good amount of discussion around a whole range of onsite/offsite staffing arrangements. Some had staggered days, others were considering set days to allow for more face to face collaboration. Clearly law firm IT departments will need to be ready to support a large amount of hybrid workers in a wide range of scenarios. There was also a trend where law firms on the east and west coast were targeting the fall/back to school timeframe whereas firms in other areas already had many of their hybrid arrangements already underway.
The conversation then moved to the topic of flexible work arrangements as they relate to retaining existing staff and attracting new staff. Several firms indicated they have already lost talent because of their limited working arrangements. Conversely, many others indicated their firms viewed offering a significant amount of workplace flexibility as table stakes in employee retention. We followed with another poll which asked “Have your hiring practices changed?” The results implied a shift in thinking – 14% said they could hire 100% remote locations, 12% said they could hire 100% but only in cities/states where they already had a presence, 45% said they were allowing flexible work arrangements for new hires and 28% indicated no changes.
We also briefly discussed physical space. Some firms have already begun to engage in hoteling and office sharing concepts. Those firms tended to be ones who have already downsized space. Most firms have not made hoteling changes yet but are contemplating them in parallel to contemplating downsizing physical space.
The next topic we discussed was about providing equipment for employees working at home. We again started with a few poll questions. The question was “For those at home, at what point do you provide additional equipment for their home office?” Over half (53%) of the respondents do not provide home equipment. 22% provided equipment with 1 day per week at home, 10% for 2-3 days and 16% at the 4-5 day level. The second poll question asked “If you organization provides equipment for employee’s home office, do you also provide equipment in office?” For this one it was a relatively even split – Yes was 35%, No was 27% and Varies was the leader at 37%. The final question was “Does your organization provide equipment/services or is it a stipend?” Here providing the equipment/service (39%) and both provided and stipend (41%) were the leaders with neither (12%) coming in third followed by stipend only (6%) and N/A at (2%). Related to these polls, there was a good amount of discussion around moving entire firms to all laptop equipment to provide the ability to react quickly. There was also a trend toward ensuring one person, one computer as opposed to a laptop at home and a desktop in the office. Generally firms are not paying for home wifi although there was a keen interest in tools to help determine if/where network problems exist for outside the office workers. Another trend for firms as well as organizations beyond the legal vertical – equipment sourcing challenges. Many were experiencing significant delays in acquiring equipment and considering alternate solutions. The group also discussed how to address support service needs which would be handled best by an onsite visit to someone’s home. Generally firms are partnering with or recommending 3rd party providers to do this and not having their own employees working in people’s homes.
The last significantly discussed topic was conference room technology. From a pure technology perspective, there is a gap when using a service that isn’t the primary one for the firm. For example, a Zoom meeting in a firm that has standardized on WebEx or MS Teams. There are bridging services, but there is typically a drop off in feature set when using them together. There is also a new expectation in having the Brady Bunch style face in a box that we have all become familiar with during virtual meetings. Combining that expectation with existing conference room hardware is a challenge. Some firms, including mine, are recommending people bring their own laptop to the meeting and join on mute to get to the same camera experience as an all virtual meeting for hybrid meetings. However, that certainly does not feel like a clean solution.
We had several more topics we did not get to, including managing hybrid teams, cultural considerations for a hybrid workforce, measuring productivity of remote worker, mentoring and retention. So be sure to sign up for our next roundtable on this subject at 12pm Eastern on Thursday, 5 August by signing up here.#RemoteWorking#Mobility#COVID-19