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Firms ‘must create genuine and real reasons to return to the office’

Post-pandemic, remote work has become so normalised that employees now hold the power when returning to work – and firms who force a premature return to the office will lose out in the long run, said one workplace HR director.

user iconLauren Croft 06 December 2021 Big Law
Firms ‘must create genuine and real reasons to return to the office’
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In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Maureen Kyne, director of Maureen Kyne & Associates, said that employers will have to offer benefits and incentives to bring employees back to the office, rather than just ordering them to return.

“As corny as it may sound, employees need to be welcomed back and it needs to be personalised otherwise they may well feel they should have remained at home,” she said.

“Managing partners and senior partners will need to communicate to their staff their expectations. They will need to remind all staff of their expectations in terms of culture, work ethic, how professionalism is defined, and the possibilities around flexibility.”


Post-pandemic, the way workplaces run has fundamentally changed, with employees becoming more self-sufficient at home. Ms Kyne said that this needs to be front of mind when asking staff to return to the office and should be done in stages.

“From CEOs down to employees, working from home has provided us with time to reflect on careers and personal life but if companies want to retain their workforce, and reduce the risk of losing their skilled staff, they must create genuine and real reasons to return to the office,” she said.

“Managing partners and partners need to create the culture and establish the tone and outline expectations for junior associates, paralegal and interns.”

Furthermore, Ms Kyne advised leaders to help their employees re-evaluate their career goals and go through the growth opportunities that come with returning to the office.

“Meet with individual employees to discuss where they have landed after these last two years. Ask them and establish how their career aspirations and goals may have changed? Gain clarity on the career path they wish to take, what have become their non-negotiables and will these affect how the firm operates. Can these non-negotiables be incorporated in the flexibility arrangements? 

“The last two years has stripped away the team ethos for many groups of employees, and companies have been left with individuals working in isolation, with no collaboration, innovation or cohesive productivity,” she added.

“Workers are not investing in themselves if they remain working from home; they are missing out on career growth and development opportunities that have a flow-on effect to other parts of their lives.”

Moving forward, hybrid working will remain prevalent – and Ms Kyne said in addition to having a plan to reboard staff, firms should be openly communicating about their WFH policies and make sure more junior staff know when firm leaders are WFH or in the office.

“Break up teams to an adequate level of experience; managing partners/partners need to support juniors, paralegal and interns and make sure this knowledge and experience is accessible both in the office and to remote teams,” she said.

“The new hybrid office is here to stay and mobile pop-up workstations will appear in suburbia. Firms may need to invest in additional managerial development roles because the new norm is hybrid and it brings its own set of challenges when dealing with staff.”

Furthermore, Ms Kyne noted that firms would only benefit from implementing these practices – and would be able to better retain staff post-pandemic.

“Workers have tasted workplace freedoms over the last two years and from CEO’s down to employees, they are all juggling a new reality and changing expectations and the old norms around nine-to-five office life are redundant. We now have a bigger role to play in creating a workforce experience,” she said.

“[This creates] loyalty, less resignations and create a strong work culture with an increased level of respect. Flexibility equals skill retention. A happy workforce means a more committed and collaborative workforce and this ultimately increases the net profit, adds value to the brand, increases opportunity for new hires and provides for better client relations with happier employees.”