Is hybrid working the future for the legal and professional services sector?

Attitudes towards working patterns and work-life blend in professional service firms have clearly been redefined since 2020. The hybrid working genie is now well and truly out of the bottle.

The pandemic debunked the myth that work could not take place remotely. In fact, a 2021 PwC survey found that 83% of employers reported the shift to remote work as successful for their company – and more than half said their employees are now more productive working remotely5.

75% of organisations still expect at least half of employees to be in the office. This is largely due to concerns about workplace culture
68% of executives say employees must be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many employees have a different take.

More than half prefer to be remote at least three days a week and are adjusting their life-plans accordingly8. A recent workforce survey found that 22% of employees say they are planning to move more than 50 miles away from the office either temporarily or permanently9.



“We operate a flexible working policy. It is up to a particular individual and/or team to decide whether they want to work from the office or from home. The majority of our colleagues seem to want to come into the office about 2 days a week.”

12% have already made this type of move since 2020, and it’s likely this trend will gather pace10. Nearly half of Gen Z and millennial employees say they’d willingly give up 10% or more of their future earnings in exchange for the option to work virtually from anywhere11.

But knowledge transfer via the apprenticeship model has always been at the heart of professional work.

Young professionals traditionally learn tacit skills osmotically, by working alongside more senior colleagues. While a sizeable cohort of executives within the professional services sector seek more flexible or hybrid ways of working, in-person learning opportunities must not be overlooked. Managing partners and professional services CEOs have a responsibility to remind all colleagues of the importance of face-to-face knowledge transfer opportunities. The career development of younger team members is contingent on role-modelled behaviours and leadership by example.

“Seven of the eight trainees I recently interviewed indicated that they would be very wary about accepting a training contract that wasn't guaranteeing them to be in the office all the time. And secondly, that they would want some assurance that the people that they were reporting to were going to be in the office on a regular basis, too.”

Ultimately, time spent in the office will be different moving forward. Collaboration and innovation will be key to longer term business success. While deep focus work is more suited to locations where there is a minimal distraction, how teams effectively work together to deliver results is largely dependent on effective communication and interaction. Inclusive in-person interaction and a perceived sense of fairness, mutuality and belonging is integral to successful hybrid working.

Hybrid working immediately enhances organisational agility. A focus on outputs and results rather than standardised work hours delivers notable shifts in service delivery. When team members are entrusted with autonomy over their hours of work, it expands the working day as some staff will inevitably choose work patterns that allow them to blend parenting and other caregiving responsibilities.

An always-open mode allows a business to respond quickly to client requests and gain first-mover advantage in rapidly emerging scenarios. 

“My preference is to retain an agile office so that we can better maintain a culture, a supportive working environment, and importantly, a base for those individuals who cannot work so easily from home and/or who want to have interaction with colleagues for all or some of the time.”

With remote and hybrid working here to stay, a different employer mindset is required. Hybrid firms must position relationship at the heart of commercial strategy, proactively building and nurturing collaborative relationships with clients and staff, across the physical and digital domains alike.

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