Over 50% of lawyers and business services staff want to permanently work from home for most of the week once the pandemic has ended, RollOnFriday's survey of changing attitudes to office life has found. Our poll of over 2,500 lawyers and law firm staff found there has been a huge shift in preferences towards long-term WFH.
Before the pandemic, over 50% of respondents said their preference was to work in the office every day, and only 2% wanted to work from home all week.
Those attitudes have undergone a radical reversal following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 75% of respondents said that in the short term once the pandemic has ended they want to work from home for at least three days a week. Almost 40% said they would not want to step foot in the office at all. Just 7% of respondents wanted to return to the office full-time.
Those preferences will be encouraging for firms seeking to make their offices safe by imposing measures which require limited numbers of staff on the premises, including strict attendance rotas and social distancing requirements.
However, the survey indicates that a three month forced absence from the office has permanently broken many people's tether to the office. As one respondent put it, "Offices seem so 20th century now".
44% of respondents said that even in the long-term, they now only want to work in the office for one or two days a week. Another 10% said they didn't want to go back to the office at all. Only 10% said their preference was to eventually return full-time. The results suggest that firms should start modelling for a sustainable form of remote working that can endure even after the danger of COVID-19 recedes.
"WFH had its challenges initially but now I am happy with the balance", said an in-house lawyer. He used to prefer being in the office every day of the working week, but no longer. "I am fitter, I eat better and I work for less time but in more intense bursts. I have saved nearly £800 (and counting) from not buying diesel for my car. I have also seen my wife and children more in the last 3 months than I did in the 9 months prior to lockdown".
Several respondents highlighted improvements in their efficiency. "I've gone from working 50 hours and travelling 10 hours to working 35 hours and my productivity is up 25%", said a solicitor.
Some lawyers said they would seek to move firms if their current employer failed to embrace ultra-WFH flexibility. "I am sceptical that the dinosaurs at my firm will want to change anything, so I'll try and find a firm which is more amenable to WFH", said a senior solicitor.
Respondents with offices in London cited the glorious absence of the commute. "My heart will sink when I have to get on the Central Line again at 7.30am again", said one.
Although for some living in the capital, the office represented a sanctuary which provided respite from thieving housemates and thin walls. "I can barely afford a room let alone a private home office", said a junior solicitor at a national firm. "My days are spent battling noise, bad internet connection, people stealing my coffee and my neighbours having sex. It is not fun". Others were harsher. "I hate my family and miss the office romances as an escape", said a partner.
For most of those who commented that they wanted to get into the office again, the impetus was a desire to touch base with colleagues - but that only required a day or two a week. "I desperately miss my colleagues and want to return to the office at least part-time for in-person conversations", said a lawyer.
However, not everyone felt the need for physical meetings. "Would be quite happy never seeing my colleagues in the flesh ever again", said a partner at a major firm. "They're all nice, but video calls work just fine and people can use their break times for something they genuinely want when WFH. Like doing Yoga with Adriene or having banana bread in the garden, rather than miserably bolting down quinoa and kombucha over a keyboard. We see our families. We're all happier. Except for the old guard who have a cushy pad with an easy commute and no idea what Ctlr+Alt+Del does. But then they are not the future".
"I save 3hrs a day and £4,800 a year in losing my commute", said a senior solicitor at a national firm. "That's not worth reintroducing into my life just to have a few chats with colleagues".
"I'm sure there will come a time when I miss sitting opposite my boss - a weathered, slack-jawed pensioner who attacks her touchscreen laptop like it's a scratchpost, and who reliably screeches 'BINGO' when she gets her printer to work", said a junior solicitor", - but that day is not today".
Given the huge response to last week's poll, there seems to be an appetite among readers to get the message to bosses about what you want to happen next. To that end, we've put together a little follow-up poll digging into what exactly you're not looking forward to about returning to work. Give it a whirl and let's see what we're scared of.