Irish lawyers are overwhelmingly in favour of working from home (WFH) more often after the end of the COVID-19 crisis, but are less confident that their employers will agree, a survey of Irish Legal News readers has found.
All of the respondents to our survey, launched in our free daily newsletter on Monday, said that their workplace was either making more use of WFH or had already been making use of it.
But even though an overwhelming majority (85 per cent) of respondents said they would personally like to WFH more often after the COVID-19 crisis ends, less than three-quarters (72 per cent) believe it will become the norm.
“I feel like there is still a huge sense of presenteeism in the legal profession,” one respondent said, fearing that working from home will be treated as “a stopgap only – and now it’s back to the office as quickly as possible”.
Another respondent suggested that managers from older generations in particular “need to embrace IT more and work with it going forward”.
Lawyers mentioned a number of advantages of working from home, particularly saving time and money on commutes and lunches. Some said they were saving more than two-and-a-half hours of commuting per day. One lawyer mentioned social benefits including “reduced traffic congestion and carbon emissions”.
“As a mother of two young children, working from home has helped my work-life balance and helped me to maintain a legal career that I might otherwise have had to give up,” said one lawyer – but others said working from home with children made it “very difficult to concentrate and complete work”.
However, others noted the drawbacks of WFH. Some noted that it is “isolating”, while others said it was difficult to draw a clear boundary between work and home.
“WFH does not suit junior staff who live in shared accommodation and who like the break of being in the office for the day,” said one respondent. “It is harder to separate work from your personal life and to ‘clock off’ at the end of the day when your workspace is in your home.”
“I live in an apartment so I don’t have the room for it,” said another. “Maybe one day a week would work, but not full-time for me.”
One respondent said the success of WFH “will depend to some extent on the individual personal circumstances of the worker”.
“Depending on the areas of practice, it will often be necessary to physically attend at the office – for example, conveyancers often need original title deeds,” they said. “Some practitioners depending on the practice area will often need to see clients personally to witness signatures etc.
“WFH is very doable but not for every day. There will always be a need to touch base.”