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August 17, 2021
Andrei Radu summarises key trends and emerging work patterns for the offices of the post-pandemic world. Learn how office design and wider developments in HR policies are shaping the future of workplaces.

Remote Working Set To Increase?

The share of people working remotely has increased gradually over the last decade, reaching approximately 350 million in 2019. This changed to a completely different scale with the Covid-19 pandemic, when more than 1.1 billion people worked from home worldwide.

It’s clear that what started for many as a temporary, crisis-limited exception is turning into a permanent trend (“working from home is here to stay”) massively restructuring the working patterns – with benefits for both employers and employees.

More Remote Or Flexible Working Options?

A survey conducted by Fast in 2020 found that 65% of the Americans prefer a workplace that gives employees the flexibility to choose where and when they work remote, while only 20% prefer full-time remote work.

How much does flexibility matter to employees? Quite a lot, according to another survey that found 66% of Americans would actually take a pay cut of 5%, while a quarter would accept a 15% cut in exchange for having the option of remote work. It’s so appealing that half of people would give up Amazon or Netflix for a year and… more than one-third said they would even give up even the right to vote again in, just to be able to work remotely.

For employers, remote work offers many benefits, too. A FlexJobs survey found that over 51% of people felt they were more productive at home, compared to only 7% for the office. Furthermore, Accenture found that 87% of its executives believe that working remotely opens up possibilities for reaching difficult-to-find talent.

The flexibility balance between home and office is currently being explored, with different models tried by various organisations. For example, Twitter announced employees could work from home forever if they so choose, while Uber said they expect a minimum of three days per week in the office.

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A Change in Office Design?

Will the offices disappear? No but “it may look different” according to a Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research brief.

This is supported by a report produced by BVN Architects, WORKTECH Academy and Cushman & Wakefield, which found the legal workplace will have to adapt to accommodate more interdisciplinary teams and to become resilient to future changes in technology and to the expectations of the workforce.

Four new models for the future office were proposed (not mutually exclusive):

  • The magnet : the office becomes a social setting for meetings and collaboration.
  • The matrix: lawyers work with emerging technologies to streamline legal processes.
  • The mutual: since less people will work in the office everyday, space might be used for partnerships with external services and educational institutions.
  • The mentor: the office becomes a learning environment.

A New Focus On Wellbeing At Work?

The change of the office/home work paradigm should be reflected in the wider trend of increased importance of wellbeing for attracting and retaining talented staff. When Gallup asked what people look for an employer, they said caring for employees’ wellbeing is among their top three criteria. This became even more important for Millennials and Gen Z.

In fact, 44% of people said that flexible work opportunities would have a positive impact on their wellbeing in the recent Wellbeing at Work Barometer. This was seen as just as important as receiving traditional recognition for work well done (45%). It supports the fact that 61% of employees said that feeling mentally well was their wellbeing priority.

Improved Work Culture?

The pressure of the pandemic, when 40% of the global workforce thought about leaving their jobs, suddenly raised the awareness of how important a good work culture is for retaining talent. It also brought to the spotlight the increasing disconnection between employees and employers’ values, with only 27% of employees saying they strongly agreed with the values of their organisations, Gallup found.

But this is something businesses need to focus on, because “a strong organisational culture” is correlated with a 25% growth in workforce over a three-year period and an 85% net profit increase over a five-year period, according to a report by Gallup.

Talking point: How do you think law firms strive to offer flexible working, consider employee wellbeing and work on an office culture?

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