There is a new word in the Covid-dictionary. It was bound to happen of course; nobody liked the term New Normal. So, what is this new word and what does it have to do with a rise in contract consulting? Hybrid working. We believe that this word (or two if you are being pedantic) will lead to a rise of contract consultants.
Why are more people turning to contract consulting in the hybrid world?
A lack of real flexibility
Lots of firms are spending time interviewing their staff to find out how (or more crucially where) they want to work going forward. Inevitably there will be a split and what people want will change over time too. You only have to do a quick scroll on your LinkedIn to find a “how many days a week do you want to go back to the office” poll.
The conclusions of all of the consulting going on at the moment is bound to lead to some inevitable truths. Not one size fits all. There will be a disconnect across generations; with younger members of staff seeking different things from the office and needing more from their leaders. Those making decisions will be torn between the needs of the business and their own preferences (many will have had a taste of shorter commutes and family dinners).
After 12 months normal looks very different. New habits will have been formed. All firms will want to demonstrate flexibility. Firms will allow more remote working than they did pre-pandemic.
Many firms will also want to return, in part, to the office. There are clear advantages for doing so: training; collaboration; relationship building; access to better technology. We believe these advantages aren’t sacrificed in a remote working model – but only if the how changes – more of that below!
What this means is that the next 12 months will be a new period of change and upheaval. The office won’t look the same. The commute will feel longer. Working out how to interact with people when half are in the room and the other half on zoom will take some getting used to.
Yes, there will be flexibility, but it will still be a balance and for many individuals, who have been asked to really consider what it is they want, hybrid working will fall short.
Priorities have changed
2020 has led many to re-evaluate what is important.
For many working parents, the ability to be able to do the school-run (in those magical months when schools reopened) or being able to regularly sit down for a family meal is a privilege that many don’t want to give up.
The need to work in the City and earn big bucks is perhaps less important that having the time to go for a run in the middle of the day, or to take the dog out for a walk in the afternoon.
Hybrid working threatens some of the things that many have enjoyed over 2020.
The biggest block to contract consulting – or going freelance – has always been the need to find work. With firms (like ours!) finding the work for consultants and with the realisation that working from home means needs are less anyway, 2020 has chipped away that barrier.
Where not how
Perhaps the biggest reason why hybrid working is going to push people into contract consulting is that it shifts the focus away from the how and onto the where.
Where we did business in 2020 was different. However, for some, the how was different too.
Legal services were delivered with empathy. We were offered insights into our clients that we would never have imagined possible. This has pushed some firms to go further and deliver services differently. Some were doing this pre-pandemic of course. We do that through legal design and have done for many years. Others have found their own way to deliver differently.
For those lawyers who have had a glimpse at the future of how the profession could be are likely to be stifled by the backwards step of the focus on the where. Management time is bound to be taken on making “where people work” work, rather than on focusing on making how the law is delivered better.
Maybe this is for me?
One of the things our Lawboxers tell us, is that before going freelance, they struggled with the idea that they would get bored or lonely. It was something that many feared when we were plunged into the first lockdown. However, the fears that many people had about “being able to work from home day in, day out” haven’t materialised. The ability to connect with people online or meet for a coffee (when that has been allowed) has shown that working from home doesn’t mean a loss of friendship or collaboration. Indeed, some firms are making it hard for people to imagine why they would ever do anything else.
At Lawbox we have created a community of Lawboxers who share a common purpose: to deliver legal services better. Our community of consultants is a team. We have fun. We represent everything a community should. What we don’t do is share an office. The where was never what was important and we don’t believe it should be going forward.