Post Authored By: Kasim Carbide
As the Delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps the nation, and we once again deal with the effects of a contagious virus, most businesses are still grappling with one important question: to allow employees to work remotely, or to require employees to return to the office?
Unsurprisingly, most businesses are split on the question with some advocating for widespread remote work and placing the option of hours and location in the hands of employees; whereas, others are advocating for at least a hybrid system requiring employees to vaccinate and come into the office for at least a few days. This article weighs the pros and cons of both sides, and analyzes the benefits and risks posed to businesses still trying to adapt to this pandemic.
While some businesses may never be able to fully incorporate a completely remote workplace (i.e., medicine, engineers, etc.) most businesses that can have heavily leaned into remote work. Most law firms and courts were quick to adapt to functional tools like Zoom, virtual assistants, and work policies that allowed their employees to continue working from home without a hitch. Businesses adopting such policies and operations quickly realized that productivity increased.
These firms recognized that, while the pandemic changed perceptions on how and where we work, that did not mean the paradigm shift needed to come at the expense of profits.
One such law firm leaning into remote work is California based Klinedinst, which continues to lease commercial space in downtown San Diego. While the firm has a barebones crew that continues to use the space in-person, the firm has decided to adopt a policy allowing their employees to continue working remotely – even after they officially reopen. Despite adopting such a policy, the firm has thrived through the pandemic while positioning itself to promote a modern and innovative culture. Most employees remain productive while preferring remote work because of the flexibility it offers with maintaining a healthy work-life balance, maintaining family life, and the costs it cuts in terms of commuting and traveling.
On the other hand, many law firms and businesses have stated their reservations about a fully remote system, and have cited things like interpersonal skills, communication, and collaboration as reasons to require employees to come into the office physically.
Some companies, like Morgan Stanley, are drawing their lines in the sand and requiring their employees and outside-counsel to physically come into the office. Morgan Stanley’s chief legal officer, Eric Grossman, issued a letter sent to law firms encouraging a return to the office, and cited “grave concerns” that the legal profession cannot endure a remote work model. Specifically, Mr. Grossman’s letter states that the in-person environment allows associates to develop skills, and provides a “significant performance advantage” when compared to fully remote operations.
In stark contrast to firms like Klinedinst, who have thrived during the pandemic, the legal profession faces a hurdle in terms of balancing the wishes of employees with the desires of its clients.
What Seems to Work?
In short, if remote operations are working, why try and fix what is not broken?
While large companies make a good point about developing skills, the legal profession faced a similar fork in the road with the advent of the personal computer. What seems like ages ago, many senior attorneys were advocating for handwriting briefs, using typewriters, and voice recorders, and scoffed at the idea of an attorney drafting their own briefs or motions on their personal laptops.
Ultimately, businesses should keep in mind that the world is rapidly changing, and it seems like COVID may be around for longer than first expected. Businesses should act accordingly and adapt to operations that best suit their industry, but businesses that refuse to accommodate workers may find their employees jumping ship and embracing businesses that adapt to the times.
About the Author:
Kasim Carbide concentrates his practice in Corporate Law, Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Compliance, and counseling FinTech startups. When he is not reading or billing, Kasim enjoys cooking, watching the Office, and playing Catan with family and friends.