The first point of discussion was around the office, what it was for and why it was needed.
The delegates agreed that they needed to assess the profile of their users, looking into who needs and wants to be an office worker. If you are going to be a permanent homeworker, do you have the right kit to enable you to do your job as competently as in the office? But it’s more than just kit and technology – users need to be led and managed throughout the move to agile working. As a result, many of the firms are incorporating HR as part of their agile working discussions or, in one case, leading the discussions.
One IT Director used University as an analogy, “Going to Uni isn’t just about getting an education. It’s the experience. And whilst they can continue to learn, they want the life experience.” Work is much the same, it’s not about where you work but the experience you have whilst you are there.
Looking forward technology-wise, the overall consensus was that 100% of the workforce would be mobile, with everyone having a laptop.
Changes to Corporate Office Strategy
Thoughts turned to the office of the future, and if traditional spaces with desks and monitors are even applicable to today’s requirements.
The fact is that the world was changing even before COVID. However, with everyone already working from home, it has accelerated the need for change.
One delegate mentioned that, back in 2015, they suggested agile working at a previous firm and it was thrown out. A year later they opened a completely agile environment to great success. There were no fixed desks and everyone was provided with a laptop. The office setup was 50% desk space, 50% collaboration and the new tone of the office helped to create the culture.
On a return to the office, delegates are predicting that there will be a 50-60% utilisation of office space and everything will be open plan, including no office for the Managing Partner.
The general pattern that is being seen is that young people want to be in the office more, with those who are older leaning towards being in the office less. Those in the middle tend to want a balanced mix of both.
Many of the attendees have been asked to set out a strategy for post-COVID, but there is a degree of frustration as to what firms actually want to achieve.
Plans are already being put in place, but given the level of uncertainty at this time, it is perhaps inevitable that they are high-level and potentially somewhat confusing for employees.
Delegates did agree, however, that 2021 was about being more practical. Now that remote working has been proven to work, firms are starting to move towards ‘agile’ working. This means that some firms have closed offices whereas others are creating new spaces specifically to fit this new work style.
The idea within the group was that the footprint of firms needs to smaller and there will likely be a 60/40 home/office split moving forward.
One firm has given everyone the option of a working model which employees deem as appropriate. This can be deemed as a more radical approach, with people able to choose when and where they work.
2021 will continue to provide new opportunities for Legal, allowing for further exploration and reinvention of what is possible.
In many ways, the “New Normal” has now become a reality for most firms. The world has shifted significantly during lockdown to one that is laptop, mobile, video and cloud first. COVID has ultimately accelerated changes that were already in flight and will continue to accelerate change in IT just as it is doing in all areas. For example, Debenhams has not run into trouble because of COVID; it was already in trouble long before. What COVID has ultimately done is accelerated its demise.
In 2021, we will continue to see changes in the IT landscape as a result of the level of change seen in 2020. When all those laptops that have been deployed return to the office, there will be inevitable stresses placed on infrastructure. Combine this with the accelerating shift to cloud services and changes in how office spaces are going to be used moving forward and there will be further significant impacts and changes that are going to be seen throughout 2021 and beyond.