International disputes firm Hausfeld has told staff they can work full-time from home until at least the end of the year. The practice is one of the first to publicly acknowledge that some employees are not willing to use public transport to come into central London while there remains no vaccine for Covid-19.

While the firm will open its City office as soon as it safely can, staff have been told they can choose when they come in and pick the hours they work or travel.

Anthony Maton, London managing partner and vice-chair, said: ‘As the last 10 weeks confirm, we have continued to work efficiently at pre-Covid-19 levels. We didn’t have to furlough staff, and have continued to welcome new joiners to the team during that time and in the next few weeks.
‘It was clear there was a worry, so it was important to remove that cause for anxiety and show our trust in the Hausfeld staff to continue to deliver as brilliantly as they have during the last 2.5 months.’

A survey of Hausfeld London staff found an almost equal split between people who wanted to return to the office as soon as possible and those seriously concerned about the health implications.

Around a third want to return full-time, a third would prefer to come in part-time or when required, and another third want to continue remote working, due to nerves about using public transport or problems with childcare.

Maton said in the long term people will question the need for extensive travel to work and large offices. The lockdown had shown lawyers could work effectively with less formality, less hierarchy and more transparency, he said, adding: ‘Now that our clients have seen us in our home with sleeves rolled up, will wearing suits and meeting in a swish conference room still matter? The ability and willingness to work remote will impact the need for office space.’

The government in England has said workers should come into work if they cannot work from home, but avoid public transport if possible. Fresh guidance last week outlined how social distancing can be achieved in offices. The advice in Wales is still to stay at home and make only essential journeys.

Meanwhile, a US firm which claims to be the biggest in the world with an entirely remote workforce, has announced its London expansion with the appointment of seven partners.

FisherBroyles, which was founded 18 years ago, follows the virtual firm model of removing fixed costs and overheads and says it is ideally placed to emerge stronger from the global pandemic. Its London presence – FisherBroyles’ first international location outside of the US – opened in February with the appointments of Peter Finding and Rory Graham as partners. It now has more than 260 partners.

James Fisher, founder and managing partner, said: ‘Post-global financial crisis in 2008, we not only survived, but doubled headcount and revenues. This proved our business model worked and has been the foundation for our continued growth ever since. It reassures us that our firm is recession proof and built to survive in the post-Covid economic environment.’

Law Society Gazette

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