Intelligent Office UK: How can you support fee earners returning to the office?

The usual ‘start of term’ feeling, that many have at this time of year after the summer months, brings with it an element of trepidation this year. Many have experienced prolonged remote working whilst others are facing the end of the full furlough scheme: with new health regulations in place, understanding the logistics and feeling safe in the office environment are inevitable concerns.

THE RISE OF THE HYBRID WORKING MODEL

In the middle of lockdown, questions arose about when, and if, the majority would return to office-based working for at least some of the working week. Recent announcements from firms including Mayer Brown, Stephenson Harwood and Clifford Chance indicate a partial return to the office from September.

One thing is certain, for the time being, the onsite office experience will be very different for everyone. It’s logical that the role of support personnel also needs to adapt and evolve in response.

The impact of Covid-19 means that a law firm’s employees will naturally have some anxiety about returning to the office. Firms have a responsibility to make them feel safe, with a significant cultural focus on wellbeing. Logistically, there will be other adjustments to navigate and uphold, including one-way systems, desk and meeting room capacity management and coordinating appropriate sanitisation of each space throughout the working day, all of which is required to ensure a firm’s ongoing compliance with government guidance.

These types of changes and the level of reassurance required cannot be communicated in a one-off statement. The ongoing facilitation of the return to office-based working in a safe and productive manner will fall heavily on the shoulders of operational support teams.

EASING THE OFFICE RETURN: EXECUTIVE FLOOR HOSTS

Many law firm employees will welcome a return to the office and the benefits that it offers; however, changes to the use of space, as a result of Covid-19 related regulations, are unavoidable. Whilst these are still in place, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to resume use of their own desk each time they work in the office. Some won’t mind but others will find it a challenge to overcome the loss of daily familiarity.

Much of this can be mitigated through the reassuring and proactive presence of Executive Floor Hosts who provide a meet and greet service that includes explanations relating to new floor layouts and hot-desk workstation allocations. As the focal point for all facilities management support services on the floor, they will identify and resolve potential problems before they arise, as well as ensuring the maintenance of a clean, tidy and safe environment. 

The traditional front of house role includes tasks such as reception, switchboard, hospitality and meeting room management. By definition members of the front of house team are very customer service orientated, focused on welcoming individuals to a firm and putting them at ease. Transitioning some personnel from a firm’s front of house team into the role of Executive Floor Hosts is an obvious adjustment that can be made as law firms start to welcome more employees back to their offices.

The visible and highly accessible support offered by Executive Floor Hosts will offer reassurance to all onsite personnel regarding the safety of their working environment. It also means that fee earners can focus on their clients and other employees can concentrate on their tasks.

Alison Bilgin, Chief Operating Officer, Intelligent Office, on the role of the Executive Floor Host:

“Many of the law firm employees our teams support are keen to return to the office for a variety of reasons but they are understandably nervous about how to do so safely. Executive Floor Hosts will help allay these concerns and are one example of a range of initiatives we are undertaking to ensure a smooth return to office-based working. Whilst Covid-19 safety is the primary reason to introduce this role, we see other legal administrative tasks being delivered by this team in the future.”

OPTIMUM SUPPORT FOR FEE EARNERS

The front of house role remains an integral part of the onsite office experience. But, like so many things, the focus of this role must evolve as firms navigate the impact of the pandemic. Intelligent Office helps law firms to improve efficiency and productivity by planning and implementing operational change.

The introduction of the Executive Floor Host role is another opportunity to do this, optimise law firm employee support and facilitate the best possible office experience in the post-pandemic era.

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