Top City firms are cautiously preparing to fully reopen their offices next month, with desk-booking apps, flexible working pilots and weekly team meetings.
Full-time staff at Fieldfisher are due to return to the office for three days a week from 21 June, when the government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact. Allen & Overy is pressing ahead with plans to fully reopen its London premises, while Irwin Mitchell’s 15 offices are due to open at 50% capacity, with desk booking systems and extra cleaning measures in place.
Simmons & Simmons is taking a more gradual approach, allowing employees to come into the office once a week from June to meet with their team. This will be the case until September, when the firm’s hybrid working policy will kick in.
September is a key month for Herbert Smith Freehills. From 6 September, the firm intends that everyone will back in the office for at least 60% of the time. In the interim, staff can transition back to the office ‘in a manner, and at a speed, they are comfortable with’.
Other City practices, such as Gowling WLG, are using the summer as a trial period to experiment with different working patterns, such as flexible start and finish times, compressed working weeks and enabling people to shift working hours to early morning or late evening. Listed firm DWF has set up focus groups to help determine future ways of working, and hopes to introduce an app to make it easier to manage capacity and simpler for colleagues to book space and access the office.
Some firms are exercising more caution. Hogan Lovells said it is still too early to say what a long-term approach to office re-entry and agile working in the UK will look like.
City reopening plans could be disrupted by concerns about the Indian variant of Covid-19. As the Gazette went to press, Boris Johnson said the UK must be ‘cautious’ about easing lockdown, adding ‘but, at the moment, we don’t see anything conclusive that makes us think we have to deviate from the roadmap’.