With some commentators claiming that Covid-19 has accelerated us into the future faster than any IT or HR strategy, there’s no doubt that remote working has suddenly come into its own. However, future-looking legal leaders need to make sure that they don’t confuse “remote working” and “being at home in a crisis, trying to work”. There are longer-term benefits to resourcing work through a considered approach to remote working and remote legal services that savvy in-house counsel can plan to capitalise on now – and continue to reap benefits from after the current hiring and budget freezes have passed.
#1: Reduce operating costs
According to Statista, office space in Central London is the most expensive in Europe, at an average of £112 in the West End. Even cheaper areas of the country incur high overheads, so reducing the amount of office space your team needs to operate in is a no brainer. Once working life returns to something approaching normal, there is an opportunity to evaluate whether you still need to run with a fixed full-time desk for every team member or whether you could save money by introducing structured remote-working and a “hot desk” policy where team members share desk space. Likewise, this period of working away from the office will have allowed you to identify which resources are truly useful; if you still maintain printed legal information resources, document repositories or other physical resources, how much could you save by moving to entirely electronic alternatives?
#2: Tap into new talent pools
Services such as Obelisk’s own Pulse service allow you to augment employed team members with remote-based consultants who can deliver overflow work as required. Delivered by high-calibre lawyers who no longer want to follow a traditional career path, this type of service allows companies like Farfetch to manage extra work at costs that are typically at least 40% lower than traditional law firms, without sacrificing quality.
#3: Extend your working day
Using remote-based workers means that you’re no longer tied to the conventional working day. With no need to commute, workers can find a working pattern that suits them and you. As long as your core operating hours are covered, thus allowing time for team meetings or to be available for colleagues, having colleagues start and finish earlier or later allows you to extend your team’s operating hours. This can be particularly useful if you are working with overseas colleagues, suppliers or customers – allowing you to speed up the time it takes your team to advise on business-critical deals and create a new point of advantage.
#4: Retain talent
Cutting out commute time can make life easier for all employees but particularly for working parents. Adopting remote and flexible work patterns helps parents to stay in employment and on the career track. During this enforced period of home-working, take the opportunity to evaluate whether or not it is truly necessary for staff to be in the office full-time, so that you can feel more confident about expanding remote and flexible work patterns going forward.
#5: Increased transparency
If work is being carried out remotely, you have to build a culture of transparent KPIs and explicit deliverables, as you are judging performance based on outcomes delivered rather than hours in the office. This inevitably leads to greater visibility of where team members are spending their time, and can help you cut down on areas that can be unproductive: such as impromptu requests from commercial colleagues or attendance at irrelevant meetings.
Leading a dispersed team is not without its own challenges. We’ve written already about how it requires you to flex your leadership style. It also requires new ways of motivating team members and working with colleagues outside of the Legal team. However, with every business function being asked to find new ways to operate in order to survive the current crisis and thrive once it passes, can you afford to ignore the opportunities remote working offers in the longer-term?
Find more inspiration and practical advice in our latest report for in-house leaders, Built to Last?