Herbert Smith Freehills is updating its agile working policy with an expectation that, going forward, its people will work in the office for an average of 60% of their working time.

The global firm says that the 60% benchmark can be adjusted to suit each individual, team and situation. It will apply to partners, lawyers and business services roles, including PAs.

The policy will only apply once an office is physically open and operational post COVID, and physical distancing rules have been relaxed or removed.

The news follows the announcement by Linklaters on 25 August that it has formalised its global agile working policy, with employees able to work for between 20-50% of their time at home, meaning that so far HSF comes out overall on the high side for WFH hours, albeit the cap is lower. There will be many in the market who argue that these figures are arbitrary, particularly given the shift among many corporates to a hybrid or even entirely remote working model.

“Despite the pressure and worries of the pandemic, we know that many of our people have greatly valued the flexibility of how, where and when we work, gaining more time for their families, health and other commitments,” said HSF CEO Justin D’Agostino.

“We also recognise that the office will remain an important place for connection, collaboration and learning, with clients and with each other.”

“By setting this benchmark for post-pandemic operations, we hope to give our people the flexibility to design a working pattern that suits them, their colleagues and our clients, and to offer some certainty in uncertain times.

“We cannot predict with absolute certainty what the workplace will look like six months or even a year from now,” said D’Agostino. “However, this new policy gives every part of our firm the freedom to start imagining and designing new ways of working as those workplace practices evolve.”

Responding on Twitter to our story in August about Linklaters formalising its agile policy, @TheTimeBlawg queried: “Why not more than 50%?” Senior director analyst at Gartner, Ron Friedmann, also queried what empirical evidence has been used for that range. It will be important for firms to provide data to show how the WFH reality is panning out once staff do begin returning to the office.

Let us know what you think – is 60% generous given that lawyers need to be in the office to learn? Or has the pandemic shown us that collaboration can be done effectively remotely and is this an arbitrary figure?

This report from McKinsey is interesting on the topic: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/three-important-questions-for-the-future-of-remote-work#