“The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past”. Was a recent quote from Barclays. With a reported 40% drop in profit, they say they simply cannot justify returning to their pre-pandemic work habits, including of course how social distancing will dictate if and how employees can return to work.
As we reconsider the way we work, it seems as though Covid-19 has triggered the largest working from home project in global history, forcing us to consider if flexible working will soon be the new normal.
A recent study showed that only 5% of the UK’s workforce regularly worked from home before the pandemic. Davis Woolfe have always encouraged flexible working, but aside from a few days here and there, it was never fully explored by anyone in our team.
After recovering from the initial shock and horror of the global spread of Covid-19, we responded quickly by closing our offices on 15 March (8 days before the enforced lockdown), and asked staff to work from home. We are extremely fortunate that all our work can be conducted remotely, our systems are all cloud based, our services continue to be in demand and the Civil Courts are open and working remotely.
The health and safety of our staff working from home became paramount. We adapted quickly by structuring our days to feel like working ones – including lunch breaks, meetings, exercise, calls and quizzes – all diarised.
We are, of course, planning ahead for when we are given the greenlight by the Government to resume normal life, but we are also left wondering what is the new norm, and could this be the end of corporate life in the office if guidelines suggest that we may not even be able to come within 10 feet of each other in a confined space.
We have also discovered that our law firm could still function fully without printers, meeting rooms, a reception and terrace, and our favourite lunch spots. One positive outcome is that we are actively working towards becoming not quite paper-less, but certainly paper-light.
So if there is an economic meltdown as we ease out of lockdown, what will become of all the empty office space left behind? Many offices are reported as being under used in the first instance, but still, many questions remain. Some have long argued that technical advances could and should move us further towards a more versatile WFH framework. Now that the pandemic has made it a possibility, and we are used to staying at home and virtual meetings, is this the dawn of the new age of flexible working?
If you would like to discuss anything relating to this article, please contact Marie-Claire Byrne at [email protected]