On return, office hygiene will be enforced more rigorously
Freshfields has announced a long-term WFH policy, allowing its employees to work remotely for up to 50% of their time, once the lockdown has lifted.
The Magic Circle firm's policy will permit its staff in London and Manchester to work remotely for up to half of their time, subject to client and business commitments.
The firm said the policy is an "interim approach", as team and client preferences "may evolve" once offices open.
“Our guidance follows feedback from colleagues who signalled a clear preference for more flexibility but also recognises the importance of in-person interaction to our culture, personal development and client engagement,” said London office managing partner Claire Willis.
Olivia Balson, director of the firm's 'global centre' in Manchester said: "We still see the office location for the Global Centre in Manchester as holding an important role in our connections, our collaboration, development and innovation." She added, "at the same time, we strongly believe in the value of a balance between remote and office-based working."
The decision mirrors the desires of the legal profession in RollOnFriday's survey of over 2,500 staff in law firms - the biggest WFH survey of the sector. 44% of respondents said that in the long-term, they now only want to work in the office for just 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 forced absence from the office has permanently broken many people's tether to the office. As one respondent to RollOnFriday's survey put it: "Offices seem so 20th century now". A follow-up survey by RollOnFriday revealed that over 50% of lawyers would swap firms if they couldn't work from home.
Allen & Overy has also said it will provide a balance between homeworking and the office, after government restrictions are lifted. The Magic Circle firm anticipates that staff will be able to work from home, on average, for 40% of their time.
“Over the course of the last year we have proven the ability for most of us to work successfully from home, and we will continue to support our people to work flexibly on an ongoing basis," said an Allen & Overy spokesman.
“As we move forward we believe that the office will remain incredibly important in terms of preserving our culture and community and in providing a space for personal development. We also realise that some people will need to be in the office more than others, but we expect that on average 60% of work will be done in our or other’s offices.”
Several firms have planned for staff to work remotely, post-lockdown. Linklaters was the first City firm to announce a long-term policy, permitting staff to work remotely for up to 50% of their time. Other firms that will also allow staff to work up to 50% of their time from home include Norton Rose Fulbright, Taylor Wessing and Squire Patton Boggs.
Herbert Smith Freehills, like A&O, will permit staff to work remotely for an average of 40% of the time.