The pandemic has changed employee expectations of their working life. A recent Microsoft survey confirmed that employees want the best of both worlds: 73% want flexible remote work options to continue; at the same time 67 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams.
Hybrid working will be far more flexible than traditional working models – from the number of days in the office to the times at which individuals work. Both lawyers and support staff are exploring flexible working hours – although this is a stronger trend amongst lawyers.
BigHand’s survey reveals that 56% of lawyers in APAC are working outside office hours and 47% of support staff are embracing flexible hours.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to hybrid working – and every individual will have different expectations of the working week. Most respondents report that support staff will work away from the office for one to three days per week. In APAC, over half (56%) expect support staff to be in the office the majority of the time, working from home at most one day a week.
This is a significant shift in working models and one that raises questions about how lawyers will access the right level of support expertise and experience during this extended working time.
Given the divergence in attitudes – between staff, firms and geographies – what information are firms using to accurately forecast resourcing demands?
The BigHand Legal Support Survey in 2019 discovered that just 3% of support staff globally were working remotely. This raises important questions about how work allocation is being managed, tracked and reported in a remote working model.
If this process is not managed efficiently in a hybrid working world and lawyers have no visibility of the support skills available at any time, they will be forced to undertake more low value administrative work or spend valuable time trying to find an available properly skilled resource. In addition to further reducing billable hours and the individual’s value to the business, this is also likely to affect job satisfaction. From the cost of recruitment to the impact on client relationships, high levels of fee earner turnover will have a negative impact on the bottom line.
Lawyers’ Hopes and Fears
Lawyers have become used to the gradual evolution in support service structure over recent years. In BigHand’s Time for Change report, 68% of firms were exploring specialised groups, outsourcing and centralisation in low-cost locations. However, there are still challenges – in BigHand’s Legal Support Survey, 59% of respondents did not believe that support work was being submitted as effectively as it could be; while 35% didn’t believe that work is being distributed evenly among support staff.
Two years on, the latest research confirms that many respondents are concerned about how firms are planning to provide better access to resources in an increasingly hybrid workplace.
The key issues from the report includes:
- The challenge of maintaining the firm culture and being part of a team (70% of firms in APAC)
- Managing staff working more flexible hours (40%)
- Achieving transfer of knowledge between staff (44%)
- Lack of visibility from the volume of work to the capacity available (33%)
- Lawyers’ lack of understanding of how to find the best available support resource (28%).
Despite successfully managing the upheaval of the past few years, many firms have significant challenges ahead if they are to create a truly effective hybrid working model.
On the plus side, firms also recognise the opportunities to deliver a better, enjoyable and more efficient working environment. Many firms are positive about the opportunities that hybrid working will bring – with 82% of APAC firms believe it will improve work/life balance for employees.
Using technology to provide better work allocation and visibility of the volume and complexity of work can support everyone’s expectations and desires for a better work/life balance. This has become even more important during the pandemic and will be a key factor in recruitment and retention strategies. Complete visibility will also reinforce the drive towards openness and fairness, ensuring that everyone has the same access to work, supporting diversity and inclusivity goals throughout the firm.
Connect with BigHand
To learn how you can start to look for the opportunity in hybrid working and how to overcome common challenges along the way, contact Shelley Pascoe, BigHand’s Solutions Manager.