As the UK lockdown has lifted, some aspects of our lives are going back to normal. In relation to returning to the workplace, firms have taken very different approaches. But in most cases staff will be going back to the office in some capacity over the next few weeks (if they have not already done so).
For some, it can be quite daunting going back into the office. This has not been the norm for almost 18 months and it may feel unnatural and provoke anxiety. Many of us have adapted to working from home and have developed routines accordingly. In addition, not having to commute to work has given people more time to work or time for themselves.
Even though it can be a scary proposition, for junior lawyers in particular there are also many positives to returning to the workplace.
When junior lawyers are on conference calls, to be in the office and sit with colleagues during the call can make it much easier to debrief in person afterwards, decide on action points and discuss
Interaction and collaboration
Being able to collaborate and work as a team is so much more fruitful when colleagues are physically present. It can be much easier to ask colleagues questions in person rather than phoning them when working from home. When junior lawyers are on conference calls, to be in the office and sit with colleagues during the call can make it much easier to debrief in person afterwards, decide on action points and discuss.
Also, building good working relationships with people you are immediately working for and being able to socialise with them will help you to feel more connected to the firm and more engaged in your tasks.
When working in the office, it can be easier to tell if someone is struggling and needing more support, and it is easier to check in on colleagues in person rather than giving them a call.
Learning and development
There is much to be said for learning by osmosis and observing how people around you are working. This can be particularly important for junior lawyers because at this stage there is much to learn and gain from colleagues. Without this experience at the office (depending on the type of legal specialism), it can be more difficult to progress and develop if you do not have these learning opportunities.
I personally learn so much more when surrounded by colleagues because you see and hear different approaches to discussing matters with clients.
Culture and ethos
When working from home as a junior lawyer it can be difficult to differentiate your employer from any other employer because most firms/companies pride themselves on their culture and ethos. This is something that cannot be easily experienced when working from home.
Junior lawyers may feel disconnected from their firm/company. This can lead to feeling dissatisfied and less engaged.
Mental health and wellbeing
All these positive aspects of returning to the office will help improve some junior lawyers’ mental health and wellbeing because it is extremely important to feel part of a team and community within your workplace. Personal development can also motivate junior lawyers and lift their wellbeing by promoting a sense of purpose and greater work satisfaction.
Furthermore, a change of scenery and routine can be positive and lead to better mental health and wellbeing.
Many firms are being flexible and happy for junior lawyers to have a balance of working from home and in the office. This means that many junior lawyers are able to benefit from both working environments and have the best of both worlds.