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The Hybrid Working Deal Breaker: Why Flexibility is the New Employee Priority

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 12 Jun 2023

Hybrid working in the legal industry

Across the past few years, TotallyLegal has paid witness to the notable evolution of how work is conducted. Following significant world events, namely the pandemic and its consequential outcomes, businesses have been forced to assess the way they operate, taking ownership of the debate on whether employees should return to the office five days a week.

The shift in attitudes around remote working has given rise to the widespread adoption of ‘hybrid working’ - with 79% of our audience now conducting a hybrid working model. Following the release of our 2023 salary survey, it was revealed that those in Legal HR, Legal IT, and Costs Drafting now work exclusively in an hybrid/remote working arrangement. Conveyancing is the sole outlier, with 75% of respondents attending the office on a full-time basis.

A soaring 56% difference from 2022 figures, wherein 23% of our audience conducted a hybrid working model, flexibility has truly become the new norm. A perk that soon became a priority, hybrid working and the flexibility it provides, takes precedence as the in-demand benefit for new and existing employees.

What’s the demand?

In a discussion of professional priorities, TotallyLegal posed the question ‘what’s most important to you in a job’. In response, our audience detailed an almost even split between flexible working (26%) and salary (27%). The mere 1% disparity demonstrates the impact hybrid working has had on our work-life balance - a newfound form of ‘structured freedom’ so to speak.

Following a year of economic instability, the option of hybrid work is a welcomed notion for a myriad of workers. The demand from employees stems from those with compelling circumstances, such as disability, health, environmental matters or financial concerns; followed by those driven by a desire to heighten productivity and maintain a welcomed work-life balance.

The benefit of hybrid work:

Advocating the balance between colleague interaction, and dedicated time for focused work, hybrid working arguably provides the quintessential split between productive output and the development of a strong working environment. Having the freedom to experience a change of scene induces creativity, fresh perspectives, and arguably boosts efficiency.

For legal professionals, in particular those in Lawyer jobs (75% hybrid), or Barrister roles (89% hybrid), hybrid working helps to combat demanding long hours and schedules centred around court times and client meetings. For legal support staff, such as Legal Secretaries (54% hybrid) and Legal PAs (100% hybrid), and those working in-house, hybrid working offers a chance to reset boundaries and schedules. Without a physical presence in the office, there’s less last-minute ad hoc changes and requests, and more timely, scheduled meetings and appointments.

Social mobility:

The influence of hybrid works transfer into greater initiates within the legal recruitment world, including social mobility and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). The option to hire those outside of the usual parameters of the office allows firms to seek out desired talent, resulting in an augmented talent pool, and a global employee map expanding beyond the usual hiring zones.

Hybrid working allows those with disabilities to manage their working lives in accordance with their own needs. By removing the dependency on office work, we see new forms of global roles that were previously less viable for certain employees come to the fore. Removing geographical barriers, ensures that ‘global roles’ are candidly global.

The future of hybrid working:

The continuing embrace of hybrid working means less overhead, and higher productivity. With large firms and businesses downsizing, restructuring office space to better utilise unused areas, firms are left with capacity to invest elsewhere.

Moving forwards, the question remains whether businesses will focus on building hybrid working cultures that foster human connection, by integrating various communication models into processes and workflows.

An employee-led future, the success of hybrid working arguably lies in giving people the autonomy and flexibility they desire. This year, in line with the precarious economic climate, employers have embraced the current candidate-driven market, with 49% of our audience receiving pay rises and 53% receiving bonuses.

Understanding that flexibility and pay are the crucial elements in fostering employee loyalty, sets the precedent for an increased adoption of hybrid working in the future. With the candidate-driven market dominating the recruitment landscape, loyal, experienced employees, with a dedication to the business, are in top demand.


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