Two years on from the imposition of remote working as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of local government lawyers are set to continue working from home most of the week, new research by Local Government Lawyer in association with LexisNexis has found.
The Life after Lockdown report , published today, also found that the job market has been energised by the expansion of remote working post-Covid, with one-fifth of lawyers surveyed reporting they had changed jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.
Three-hundred and ninety-five lawyers and 50 heads of legal were asked about their experiences working for local authorities during the pandemic for the report. The survey acts as an update to similar research conducted by Local Government Lawyer in 2020, shortly after the first lockdown.
Of heads of legal surveyed at councils that have decided on the future of remote working, 31% reported their local authority would require people in the office two days per week. Thirteen per cent of managers surveyed said their staff would be working one day a week in the office. Additionally, 18% reported that currently-remote staff would continue in full-time remote positions in the future.
The survey found that among lawyers, enthusiasm for full-time remote working has grown by six percentage points (13% in 2020 compared with 19%). Lawyers' most desired working pattern is one day a week in the office - not two, as was the desired pattern in the 2020 survey.
One-fifth (21%) of all lawyers surveyed have joined a new council legal team during the Covid-19 crisis, suggesting that the wider availability of remote working had energised job market, the report said. Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said the availability of remote work would be a "major factor" in their decision on where they work. Heads of legal told the survey that while being able to offer remote or hybrid working had recruitment slightly easier, it made retaining qualified staff more difficult.
Despite widespread support for remote work amongst lawyers, the survey found that 16% of lawyers reported 'isolation/poor motivation' as the biggest problem when working from home, making isolation and poor motivation the biggest issue flagged by respondents. Lawyers also said feelings of isolation and a lack of motivation have gotten worse than any other remote working hurdle over the past 12 months.
The research found that managers are also experiencing problems maintaining morale. Heads of legal said it was the single biggest problem they faced, with over half reporting difficulties. Fifty-eight per cent viewed morale as "moderately" more difficult when staff are remote, and a further 12% reported that it was "much more difficult".
It also found that:
• 71% of lawyers would prefer remote court and tribunal hearings to become permanent.
• Lawyers said that they are an estimated 116% as productive when compared to their pre-pandemic output.
• 40% of lawyers reported that issues regarding the "lack of appropriate technology" have improved over the last 12 months. Fifty-six per cent said it stayed the same, and just 3% said it got worse over the year.
• 37% of managers reported that their department is planning to "significantly decrease office space" following the pandemic. A further 32% are set to "moderately" decrease office space.
• 46% of lawyers said the quality of their work output had improved compared to when they worked in the office.
The full report can be read here: www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/lockdown22