A major shift toward hybrid law firms during the pandemic has created more opportunities for legal professionals, who are voting with their feet by leaving unsatisfactory jobs during The Great Resignation.
Those who aren’t leaving the workforce due to family obligations are flocking to positions with more flexibility, better work/life balance and, of course, higher salaries. Smokeball’s Law + The Great Resignation survey, conducted in April 2022, found 38% of new hires at firms request or negotiate a hybrid schedule. Just 11% of firms say they’re not offering a hybrid law firm model in the wake of COVID-19.
This new workplace model is largely to firms’ benefit; 67% of firms believe they have been more productive since they started working from home, and 77% of attorneys worldwide would like to continue with a hybrid model. But it also comes with new challenges. How can firm leaders ensure staffers remain engaged and productive, producing consistent work while working at a hybrid law firm?
The importance of employee engagement
Employee engagement is closely linked to high performance and increased productivity. Engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than their peers, and highly engaged teams see 59% lower turnover. Increased retention reduces unwelcome distraction and dips in productivity while also saving firms from forking out eye-watering recruitment fees.
Fortunately, remote work might help increase engagement — especially among younger employees. Recent Gallup data shows 41% of millennials who work remotely consider themselves to be engaged, compared to 30% of offsite workers overall.
Three steps for ensuring ongoing engagement
1. Understand that management and teambuilding are more critical than ever before
Hybrid law firm employees are more likely to feel lonely and isolated due to limited interaction with other firm members — especially if they joined your firm after 2020. Managers now play a more significant role in establishing trusting, collaborative relationships with their direct reports and facilitating bonding among team members. Their actions may prove a key factor in retaining employees.
Help your managers adapt to this new normal. They need to be proactive, checking in with every individual on a regular basis. These check-ins should also be a two-way street. Managers need to listen their teams and respond to feedback — employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
Suggestions for managers:
- Schedule a short, casual, weekly virtual check-in with direct reports
- Provide an all-staff remote lunch (with food delivered) quarterly
- Pair newer employees with more seasoned staff members, creating a buddy system and building informal mentorships
- Be transparent about employee performance and salary expectations
Smokeball legal practice management software’s Law Firm Insights may also hold clues about your employees’ mindset and well-being. If an employee is billing fewer hours, taking longer to complete routine tasks and is quiet in virtual meetings, they may need additional support.
Rely on technology to build repeatable processes
Investments in video technology boomed in response to new hybrid law firm work models: 61% of firms told Smokeball they introduced it in 2020/21. But firms also need technology that allows them to mimic other in-person aspects of office life: Organization, collaboration, communication and more.
The first thing your team sees when they boot up Smokeball every morning: Our global dashboard. With a daily digest of tasks, recent activity and more, the dashboard helps you prep for your entire day at a glance.
Smokeball’s Legal Tasks & Workflows also help everyone understand their responsibilities. Assign tasks to specific individuals, set reminders and ensure your firm never misses a deadline. And because every piece of information in Smokeball is tied to the related matter, including emails and documents, you’ll never worry about crossed wires or miscommunication.
With your entire team on the same page about how best to work, you’ll increase overall cohesion, aid collaboration and provide a superior employee experience. In other words, you’ll enhance employee engagement.
Monitor productivity — no matter where employees work
While deskside check-ins are a thing of the past, they never truly provided insight into staff productivity. Smokeball’s automatic time tracking and Law Firm Insights provide irrefutable evidence of remote employees’ productivity — and their profitability as a whole.
Identify and reward high performers and take immediate action if some individuals fall behind. Use Law Firm Insights in tandem with Legal Tasks & Workflows to monitor and redistribute workflows to reinforce a workplace that values employees’ time and mental health.
Know that you’re not alone in learning how best to operate in a hybrid law firm environment. Every day, Smokeball users interact within our Community, a like-minded meeting place for small law firms. You and your team can build relationships with peers, share your struggles and discuss your own solutions for ensuring long-term engagement.