By Jonny Watkinson, Head of Legal Services UK&I, NetMotion
Working from home (WFH) has been the norm for many of us in 2020. According to a survey conducted for CCS Insights, 60% of business leaders in Western Europe and North America expect at least 25% of their workforce, and in some cases all of their staff, to work at least partly from home – even when the pandemic is over. Amongst other things, COVID has served to carve out a new working landscape. Businesses of all shapes and sizes, (from various sectors) have been given the opportunity to explore their approach to agile and remote working. In this respect, the legal sector is no different. Current working conditions have forced many legal firms to pivot and embrace true agile working.
With 2021 stretching out before us, vaccination programs are afoot with the hope that most of the adult population will have been vaccinated by late Summer. With many of us still WFH, what does the post-vaccination working environment look like? What’s next for legal firms when their teams are not restricted to solely working from home? Many firms suggest there needs to be a transition phase from remote-but-static working, to remote-but-agile working. That is to say, once vaccinated, workers may not necessarily rush back to the traditional office environment.
Most legal firms are coming to the realization that most of their workforce will be mobile in some form or another. Many lawyers are particularly mobile by nature, but even legal secretaries will be working multiple days at home each week. Might workplaces morph into social areas? Will fixed desks be replaced by hot desks? Now is the time for firms to be thinking about this, to be preparing for the post-COVID, vaccinated world. Whatever happens, there is most definitely going to be an increased number of mobile workers.
Connectivity will be a key factor for staff working remotely as firms try to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. Ultimately, people need secure encrypted and reliable connections so that they can quickly and easily reach their applications and services. Nobody likes working in an environment with connectivity issues; creating an office-like, seamless and flexible experience for users while working remotely is the holy grail.
A useful place to start is by engaging with your people to really understand what they want and need from their working lives. Invest in the right technology and concentrate on changing work behaviours and employee mindsets. From a technology point of view, there are a host of different devices to consider – laptops, tablets, smartphones, VDI and even docking stations – all the while, connectivity is essential, be that from Wi-Fi, cellular services, or a combination. Agile working also requires a wider change in overall IT strategy. An agile workforce requires services such as unified communications, applications, collaboration platforms and remote access technology amongst others, thus allowing everyone to do their job regardless of their location. As law firms everywhere evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a different way of working, ensuring that their fee earners can seamlessly interact with each other and their clients is critical – optimal user experience, increased visibility and reliable connectivity are all essentials.
Security is key
Security must always be a top priority for any firm developing a remote working strategy. Encrypting traffic on unknown or insecure networks can avoid so-called Man-in-the-Middle attacks and prevent any accidental data loss. The reputational damage (on top of any punitive damages) would be a disaster for any law firm – large or small. An agile workforce also has the potential to be the target of cyber-attack and the safety nets that a secure office network provides are no longer present, the need to protect the remote worker is now paramount.
Employees who are remote or mobile need to be able to carry out their work without any impact on their employee experience (EX) – a seamless experience results in happier workers. Nobody likes dealing with annoying re-authentication practices or poor-quality video calls – often a frustrating experience. Indeed, the pandemic has seen a huge uptake in video-conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom becoming the new normal way to meet, network and collaborate.
Are you compliant?
Compliance is critical for the legal sector. Failing to comply is ultimately a costly exercise. On the one hand, organisations could face stiff fines from the relevant regulatory body, and on the other, there are costs associated with reputational damage. Needless to say, no organisation wants to deal with a raft of compliance issues resulting from its remote working policies. With this in mind, ensuring that client data is secure should be a critical focus for any firm. But that’s the important point in this discussion; any security solution has to allow employees to access internal systems and applications from anywhere, on any network, without the worry of being compromised.
Significant numbers of staff have been permanently working from home, but post-COVID in a vaccinated world, the new normal for many firms will be an agile workforce and not necessarily tied to any specific location. Many reports suggest that agile workforces are more productive and happier. With that in mind, 2021 should be a much more positive experience for firms and clients alike.
NetMotion is a provider of mobile performance management software. It is backed by The Carlyle Group and its customers include UK top 100 law firms Osborne Clarke, Taylor Vinters, Linklaters and Mishcon de Reya as well as corporates such as the AA and Hertz.
We do not charge for editorial comment, which is posted on its merit. We welcome great thought leadership, please contact editor firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.