Hot-desking and Pret a Manger: just two of the seemingly eternal mainstays of urban office life we may now have to live without.

Paul rogerson

Paul Rogerson

Hot-desking appears to be dead, at least for the moment. I, for one, certainly won’t miss it. Food-to-go chain Pret’s relentless expansion, meanwhile, has suddenly turned to retrenchment. Staff cuts and branch closures look inevitable.

We will all need to get new bearings upon returning to the office. Before lockdown I’d just started bringing in my own lunch. Not as part of an economy drive, but rather in protest at the sad demise of the traditional family-run sandwich bar. Corporate sushi is not for me.

As cafes shut and kitchen spaces are taped off, I count myself a trendsetter. Expect a run on Tupperware and Thermos at John Lewis.

Last week, to coincide with the Return, Restart, Recovery campaign, a very useful Law Society seminar investigated the practicalities of the ‘new normal’. City giants are awash with ergonomy gurus and facilities managers, but managing a return to the office is tougher for smaller practices. ‘Consult, communicate and engage’ are your watchwords, says Alexandra Cardenas, Chancery Lane’s public affairs chief.

This week’s Gazette also canvasses recruiters on the longer-term impact of Covid on the legal jobs market. It’s tough to generalise. In conveyancing, for example, the relative bullishness of May has been dampened by a tightening of mortgage lending criteria in June. If you work in employment law or insolvency – or in the public sector – the outlook appears brighter.

Also notable is the fact that some solicitors are anticipating possible redundancy when the furlough scheme expires by scouting new opportunities right now. We just don’t know yet how severe that economic shock will prove to be.

For employers, meanwhile, the imperative is to embrace the new flexibility if you want to attract the best candidates. Pre-Covid, legal firms were reluctant to do so as a breed. But the pandemic has proved that working outside normal office hours – and outside the office – need not reduce productivity. Quite the opposite. I’m never late for work now. Don’t know about you.