Thirty-Six years ago, Steven Spielberg produced a Summer blockbuster titled Back to the Future. The movie tells the story of a scientist helping a young time traveler to return home. The scientist’s creative use of lightning as a power source shows the benefit of thinking outside the box. Law firms can likewise use out-of-the-box solutions to encourage lawyers and staff to return to their offices.
Some lawyers and staff may be reluctant to return to the office due to personal situations or health issues. Others may want to return, but delay because they are concerned about safety issues. Law firms can overcome back-to-office inertia by adopting strategies that promote engagement, health, and well-being. A successful return to the office can bring benefits like improved creativity, collaboration, and productivity. Following are strategies and resources for motivating your lawyers and staff to return to their offices.
Care. Contact childcare and nursing agencies to find caregivers for employees who need help with young children and elderly family members.
Communication. Use emails and memos to communicate the benefits of returning to the office. Schedule videoconferences to keep workers connected and informed about plans for returning to the office.
Environment. Improve working conditions by reconfiguring workspaces, adding touchless options, and modernizing décor. Create a welcoming environment that makes people feel comfortable and relaxed.
Flexibility. Allow lawyers and staff to work remotely for a few days per week. Give lawyers and staff the ability to select days in the office and reserve workspace.
Fun. Encourage camaraderie with weekly lunches, monthly social events, firm newsletters, and team meetings.
Hygiene. Promote hygiene with hand cleaning stations and mask dispensers. Educate by posting reminder signs and publishing a checklist of action items for health and safety.
Safety – Improve air quality by installing UV lights, upgrading air filters, and increasing air exchange. Schedule frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Technology. Use HR management software to automate benefits administration, health tracking, and work schedule.
Wellness. Promote well-being at the office with opportunities for exercise and mediation. Hire nutritionists and trainers for group and one-on-one consultation.
Conclusion. Facilitate a successful return by improving your office environment and adopting programs that promote engagement, health, and wellness. Also, adopt emerging technologies and hybrid workstyles that promote connectivity and productivity. Use the tactics and resources mentioned in this article to facilitate a safe return and make your office a congenial place where lawyers can thrive and clients can be well served.
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- Ron Carucci, How to Lead Your Team Through the Transition Back to the Office, Harvard Business Review, Jun. 16, 2021
- Rosemary Kupfert, Why Do Law Firms Need Human Resource Management Software?, Law Practice Today, Aug. 14, 2020
- David Barmka Mintz, Hybrid Return-to-Office Plans: Infinite Possibilities—and Problems—for Employers, Bloomberg Law, Jul. 26, 2021
- Te-Ping Chen, Covid-19 Threatens to Blow Up Law Firms’ Intense Office Culture—for Good, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6, 2021
- ABA Task Force, Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, American Bar Association, 2017
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Bob Nelson, Recognizing and Engaging Employees, John Wylie & Sons, Inc., 2015
- Request for Flexible Work Schedule, University of Texas
- Remote and Hybrid Work Policy, SCM Insurance Services
- Remote Work Policy and Agreement, California Employers Association
- Human Resources for Law Firms (FindLaw)
- Institute for Well Being in the Law
- Lawyer Assistance Programs (American Bar Association)
- Managing People (Harvard Business Review)
- Society for Human Resource Management
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