Rethinking the Meaning of “Office Hours” Post-Pandemic

By Mike Campbell | Nov 19, 2020 | Mike's Office Management Tips

To run a successful law firm– whether it’s a solo practice or a large firm– you’ll need to not only excel in the areas of law you’re practicing in, but also in all matters of running the practice itself. Running a legal practice comes with its own, unique set of challenges that even the most prepared lawyer setting out to start a new practice may find themselves overwhelmed with. I’m here to help make the job of running your law office just a little easier. Welcome back to Mike’s Office Management Tips.
— Mike Campbell

While there are professionals out there with a 9-to-5-type schedule, we know there’s no “typical” day as lawyers. Even the most organized among us run into the need to adapt and reschedule. But there are certain hours of the day when tasks just have to get done. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has many of us working remotely, has law firms rethinking the meaning of “office hours,” especially in a future post-pandemic world.

The Traditional “Office Hours”

When a potential client searches for your law firm, what will they see about your office hours? Will they see a traditional 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule? Maybe you have extended evening hours throughout the workweek and limited hours on the weekend. Some law firms even go as far to say they’re open 24 hours—primarily if they utilize a chat service where clients can reach out at all hours of the day or night. Either way, you likely already work considerably outside of your firm’s “office hours.”

If you are working outside of your firm’s open hours, you’ve already started to rethink what office hours mean to your business. If, however, your employees are limited to a stricter schedule—especially if they’re hourly instead of salaried, it might be time to start thinking about the benefits of flexible schedules and how you could better serve clients with nontraditional hours.

What to Consider When Rethinking Work Schedules

If your law firm is considering a new post-pandemic strategy when it comes to how your office operates, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself and your employees. Depending on the answers, you may discover your firm can work more efficiently with nontraditional hours.

How do current office hours affect your employees’ effectiveness and well-being?

Your law firm’s scheduling practices have an impact on your employees’ effectiveness. While a traditional schedule may work for some, not everyone is at their most productive with the standard office hours. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported that 51% of U.S. employees said that they would switch to a job that offers flextime.

Flextime and compressed work schedules give employees more control over when they work. This can increase overall job satisfaction and attitudes—which is likely to result in higher performance and productivity levels.

Can work schedules be better aligned to meet the needs, desires, and personalities of your employees?

Some employees are better suited to work certain hours. Circadian rhythms and family situations are just two factors that can affect when it’s best for an employee to work. For this reason, if you’re considering a nontraditional schedule for your law firm, make sure your employees want to work those hours or have the flexibility to work when it’s best for their situation.

Is it possible to create or allow customized schedules?

If the thought of a nontraditional schedule heightens your anxiety, studies have shown it is possible to create idiosyncratic and customized schedules that still meet the needs of the employer. If you’re starting to consider rethinking the traditional office hours, you can start by broadening the concept of job crafting to include scheduling. Job crafting typically allows employees to determine what they work on, who they work with, and why they work, but it can be extended to when they work, as well.

Can you balance your law firm’s needs, clients, and employees with a different schedule?

You may be thinking that nontraditional schedules just won’t work for clients—who expect to be able to get in touch with their lawyer during regular business hours. However, with how we function today, it’s been suggested that all types of organizations and businesses need employees working around the clock, overnight, and on holidays to meet consumer, customer, or clients’ demands.

The key to meeting both your client and employees’ needs is finding a balance between short-term needs and the long-term benefits that new schedule strategies bring to your employees and law firm.

While it’s unrealistic to assume that every law firm will rethink the meaning of office hours in a post-pandemic world, lawyers should consider taking a more organic approach and allow employees to play a more significant role in determining when they want to work.

So long as your firm can continue to meet your clients’ needs and communicate effectively amongst one another, there’s no harm in experimenting with the scheduling method that works best for your law firm as you return to the office.