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Majority of legal workers say working from home has improved their work-life balance

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Almost half are ‘dreading going back to the workplace’

The majority of legal workers experience a better work-life balance working from home, a new report looking at the impact of remote working on the industry has found.

More than half (52%) of employees across the UK law sector say working from home has improved their work-life balance for the better, while just over a quarter (26%) feel more motivated working remotely. More than half (53%) are being trusted to get on with their job and work independently without being “micromanaged”.

The study of 1,000 British office workers, including 100 in the legal sector, by tech company Culture Shift, further found that over a third (35%) feel more likely to experience bullying or harassment while in the workplace, compared to just 16% while working from home. A quarter (25%) receive passive-aggressive comments less often now they’re outside the office.

However, as law firms continue to make plans for their staff to return to the office, nearly half (44%) of those working in law are said to be “dreading going back to the workplace”.

Thirty-nine percent of legal professionals said working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health, with almost half (46%) saying they feel more isolated. Imposter syndrome and self-doubt are rife, with more than a quarter (27%) feeling these more so working from home than they did previously.

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More than a third (35%) of employees in law said working from home has hampered their training and development.

Commenting on the findings, Gemma McCall, CEO and co-founder of Culture Shift, said: “Remote working has positively impacted employees for the most part and is something employers should absolutely be considering as they plan for the future — especially now the success of this approach has been clearly proven.”

She continued:

“While there are of course some key factors organisations need to work on, like continued commitment to training and development, employees’ wellbeing and progression, employers should be ensuring they have systems and tools in place to empower their teams to remain productive, creative and supported, even while they’re working from home.”

The research follows findings earlier this year that more than three quarters (77%) of legal workers believe the lockdown has shown that they can work effectively from home.

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31 Comments

O

The biggest advantage is no more time wasted sitting around in the office waiting for things to come in (which sometimes can take hours). Can now use those pockets of time effectively, whether that’s going for a walk, exercising or spending time with your kids/family.

I think the happy balance for most will be a flexible week with some time in the office and some from home.

Patient NQ

Agreed. I think I would be most happy with three days at home and two in the office just for client meetings and a little time away from home to break the week up. Although if it was a choice between one or the other I would take working 5 days a week from home any time.

Unshackled associate

I don’t think I’m going to be able to go back for the long term to be honest. c.6 months away from the toxicity and face time and the hold over me is pretty much broken – the partners will desperately try to reimpose the old system but having seen first hand how completely pointless the worst bits of it are it’s hard to imagine going back to it with any enthusiasm.

6-12 months and I reckon a fair few will be legging it from firms having come to a similar conclusion.

Good Game

Something that has baffled me in several pieces I’ve read is the scare mongering from mainly the right wing press that if office workers don’t go back into the office then their jobs will be outsourced. The sentence is eerily similar in every piece – it goes:

“if you can work in [Surrey – insert other cosy home counties location] then why not in [Belfast – insert somewhere else northern and cheaper than London] or even [Mumbai – somewhere else far away]”.

I’ve been in the world of work for 10 years now, and even in my shortish career we’ve already had outsourcing once! A load of call centre, IT and secretarial jobs went first to mainly Asia, and then to Eastern Europe, and then back to the UK again as employers realised that the money saved vs extra time spent explaining tasks and editing results wasn’t worth it.

It all smacks a bit of people with vested interests trying to get workers back into city centres asap, with the nastier undercurrent of “foreigners after your jobs!”.

truthsiren

Well duh, there’s tens of billions of pounds in office property across the City that is effectively worthless and lying about empty. Corporate landlords are quaking in their boots at the “new normal”.

Good Game

Yep, those are the vested interests I was referring to.

bingo

They definitely exist, no doubt about it. And they also happen to be big Tory party donors lol

Anonymous

Yes, we must all put ourselves at risk to protect the income stream of foreign property investors.

Anon

Don’t forget about ‘saving Pret’ – the chain no one is looking to save… Give me a local cafe close to home any day!

SB

WFH is going to be great for those working in London with six figure salaries who won’t have to splash out on the the London cost of living and rent etc.

They will easily get to pocket 50k in savings a year once the London prices are out of the equation.

Joe

This will blur the lines further when it comes to the salary. The high law firm salaries in London are partly due to having to live in zones 1-2 to stay near the office but this is no longer required if there is a move to WFH.

James

It’s funny because now people will start to see that the law firm ~culture~ and all the ~we are innovative~ and ~we <3 tech~ stuff that law firms boast about won’t matter.

When you’re WFH it’s more clear that everyone across the city at these firms does pretty much the same work and hours. It starts to look different when you’re no longer under those bright lights in big office spaces but at home doing the same work and hours for significantly less money.

Andrew

This will especially blur the lines between city and regional lawyers

Anon

No, it really won’t. The work undertaken at the top City firms is not comparable to, and is often far more complex, than regional firms. I can’t see top hedge funds and PE firms entrusting regional firms with their work.

sweaty toiler

Yeah and what will you spend those savings on mate. Everyone knows the cash is only fun if you can blow it on gak, fly hunnies and plush dinners

Where's Wally?

Ultimately, if no one goes back to the offices, other sectors will suffer as result. It’s less about crying for multi-million pound businesses like Pret et al. and more about the staff they employ, on low wages just trying to get by and who will be losing their jobs very soon if not already.

I would expect that if no one needs to live in London to work for these firms, that there will be pay cuts across the board, and possibly even cuts in charge out rates too to reflect reduced overheads.

Fair enough, look at the positive benefits you personally get, without looking at the bigger picture.

Anonymous

Buy sandwiches! Save Pret! Kill your grandparents!

Where's Wally?

I forgot that everyone has, and lives with their, grandparents, and that all shops firing low paid employees due to a lack of footfall sell sandwiches.

So sorry; I retract all comments about the short-sighted selfishness of people. Its also clear to me now that the popular tombstone engraving is currently “killed by grandchild(ren) going to work in the office, but not said grandchild(ren) going to the pub, restaurants, gyms, close proximity to others in public, being visited at all by said grandchild(ren) or failing to wash their hands appropriately”

Anon

Why exactly can’t these businesses be moved out of the City centres and closer to people’s homes?! If the City is no longer the business hub it was, there is no need for the Prets and shops etc. There will still be a demand for cafes and shops, they just won’t be as central It will take time to do but overall the jobs will still be there, and I’m sure the lower income workers wouldn’t mind working closer to their homes either (because majority won’t be in Zone 1).

Where's Wally?

While I don’t disagree with the premise of your statement, the sticking point is “time”. Businesses aren’t kind enough to wait and see whether taking on 10’s to 100’s of new leases to follow their city of London clientele to their homes might work out in the medium to long term before getting rid of their current overheads.

Lawyer

Everyone will be back in the office by the end of the year. Maybe people will WFH on a Monday or Friday and it will be now be acceptable but the idea that all law firm offices will suddenly disappear or lawyers will move out to the regions but stay on 6 figure salaries is just all hype. Things will be back to normal in the next couple of months.

anon

Let’s see how this comment pans out by December time…

Anon

As someone that works at an MC firm, I can tell you you’re wrong. I’ve been involved in discussing and planning our future approach and at best it’ll be a 3 day vs 2 day (split depending on individual and client needs). We won’t be going back to full-time working.

Before someone claims this ‘can’t be true’ as I’m at an MC and on legal cheek, I’m in business services and have an interest in how firms are perceived on here.

Anon

Sorry but I will not be prepared to pay the same rates to my lawyers at K&E who advise on my PE deals if they are not in the Gherkin.

Anonymous

But they can fill in the blank on Word templates anywhere. That is all they are good for.

Shameful Failure of Counsel

Please spare a thought for those who have worked hard but are not going to make it through this COVID time.

I’m an in-house criminal barrister for whom redundancy beckons.

Ten years of hard work and I’m going to have to move back in with my parents, with my family in tow.

At least I have life insurance.

A Millennial Duh

So say no! Why do we continue to be slaves to an outdated working model? If your boss wants you back in the office, question it. If there is no valid business reason, tell them to get real. Stop being sheep.

Huh

Almost half dread going back into office means more than half want to go back. For those that want to stay out of the office, I hope you are reducing your rates charged to the client.

Anon

Charge out rate is for the work completed, not where it’s completed. Pointless comment.

Confused.com

Not sure why people think that working from home means lower net pay when it comes to the professions. Your employer is paying you for your time. How you spend your money, and where you choose to live (and associated property/rental/commute costs) is up to you.

Isabel (Legally Human)

I do have to ask one thing what sort of law firms does this majority tend to work for?
As that doesn’t seem to be the reality for a lot of magic circle law firms.

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