What will the new normal for the workplace as business organizations contemplate the impact the pandemic has made on productivity, performance & culture?
With the mixture of some employees returning to work in some states and others remaining sheltered in place in other states, the new normal is likely to be varied. With that said, there are definitely some workplace predictions that will likely remain with us.
Leaders and employees from both tax and legal industries indicate that the demands for agile working, flexible resource management, project management, and diverse teams are here to stay.
Agile working and flexibility — The public health crisis has normalized work flexibility because it required that most white collar professionals work remotely for a period of a few weeks. It forced some managers who had previously not supported their teams remote working to do so, and they experienced both the positive aspects and challenges that came with it. As a result, workplace flexibly emerged as the norm.
Legal innovation expert Lucy Bassli goes one step further to predict how it will impact collaboration across the legal industry. “The ability to build remote teams will enable leveraging the best skills at the best cost like it hasn’t before,” Bassli says. “They will be formed in a way that we haven’t seen before where niche solution providers are going to have some great opportunities.”
Checkr GC Irene Liu indicates in her recent column that companies will need to prepare their employees and office space for the return of staff from shelter-at-home to office workplaces with social distancing. In addition, employers will need to be flexible, based on the varying preferences of employees in how they interact. Some will appreciate the privacy and reduced distractions in open floor plans, while extroverts will take time to adapt to new ways of saying hello and maintaining close connections with colleagues. Other return-to-office considerations include whether or not organizations should provide gloves and masks and how they should adopt daily monitoring of staff who may have contracted COVID-19.
Flexible resource management — Given the increasing uncertainties around the economy and what is already happening in major retail industries around furloughs and the likelihood of future lay-offs, companies will be looking harder at efficiencies and what roles they can scale up and down more easily depending on the need.
“Corporate clients are increasingly seeking globalized solutions that integrate law into a wider category of ‘business solutions’ — precisely the approach these globally integrated multidisciplinary firms now champion,” argued David B. Wilkins and Maria Jose Esteban in an article from Harvard Law School.
Investment in project management — Both the tax & accounting and legal industries have seen the development of roles to assist in increasing effectiveness and workflow efficiency on both the buy side (corporate law and tax & accounting departments) and the sell side (tax & accounting firms and law firms):
- Within corporate law departments, upgrading the talent mix is a top priority. Departments are hiring more professionals to increase the department’s capacity and provide different legal skills to expand capabilities in order to change the way the department runs, according to the latest report 2020 State of Corporate Law Departments report.
- Project management was listed as a top 10 competency for lawyers, according to the Legal Executive Institute’s Delta lawyer competency model.
- In addition, professional services is projected to be a top industry for project managers over the next decade, based on research insights completed by the Project Management Institute and cited by the CPA Accounting Institute for Success.
Diverse teams — Diverse teams produce better operational and financial returns — 19% of increased revenue according to this report. And the entry and rise of Millennials as the second most diverse generation in the workforce also have been a major force in promoting diverse hiring. Employers are now normally expected to prioritize the hiring and retention of professionals with a diverse identity or background. In fact, job postings for Diversity & Inclusion roles increased by 23% in 2019, according to Indeed.
There is no doubt that many changes will coming out the pandemic crisis. And although many of these changes are difficult to forecast, employers should be aware that workplace flexibility, agile resource management, investments in project management, and diverse team requirements are all likely to remain part of the new normal workforce going forward.