National firm Slater and Gordon has announced that remote working for its almost 2,000 staff will become the norm rather than the exception once the pandemic ends.
The firm will move out of its London office in September once the two-year lease on the building ends, with a review of all offices nationwide due to finish in September. The announcement was made to staff today, but it is not expected to result in any significant job losses.
The intention for London, where almost 200 people currently work, is to find a smaller office that is more suitable to hosting meetings, with other work done from home or elsewhere.
The Covid-19 crisis has seen the firm move most staff out of its offices to work from home, in line with all other legal busineses.
David Whitmore, chief executive, told the Gazette that what has effectively been a test run of smart working has proved successful and popular, prompting the decision to make it a long-term model.
‘We now have to decide how to operate going forward and we are determined to use the lessons of the last few months to define how we work,’ he said. ‘We are not doing this to be different, we want as much as possible to be business as usual. A lot of people have liked the way they have been able to operate and we have been listening to them.’
It is less than two years since Slater and Gordon moved to its current London office from premises previously home to the Russell Jones & Walker practice acquired in 2012.
‘We’re looking for a space which is much more flexible,’ said Whitmore. ‘We’re not saying we’re going to turn into Google overnight but we’re saying the usual work practices will take place in a remote location.’
The firm’s lease commitments are longer for other offices so there are no decisions yet about what to do with them, although it is understood that office space will be reduced in Manchester. Whitmore added that offices are likely to run to just 35% capacity while social distancing restrictions remain.
Staff will be provided with multiple screens if they are needed and homes fitted with comfortable office equipment. Surveys have indicated that most staff would like to work remotely for the majority of their time, with almost everyone wanting flexible working patterns. Since the lockdown began, the firm has increased its wellbeing initiatives to keep morale up, with managers expected to carry out regular check-ups on all staff.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.