This was an interesting presentation discussing some of the longer-term effects of our recent remote and hybrid work environment on professional development
Developing talent in a remote or hybrid setup is quite different than it is in traditional brick-and-mortar offices. Finding ways to build community among coworkers without personal interaction has challenged management to utilize technology for more than just sales presentations and group meetings.
A successful strategy to boost morale and help workers feel connected and supported includes dedicated time during virtual video meetings for social interaction, opportunities to discuss things that are going on in their lives. These are the conversations that would normally happen spontaneously around the office. Prior to the pandemic, full-time workers spent nearly half of their waking hours in the office or commuting; now they spend most of their time working from home with no commute. Workers are having a very different work experience these days and the long-term effects are not yet known.
I can remember my first few jobs as a recent college grad: they involved sitting in training rooms with other “new-to-the-company” individuals with whom I endured seemingly countless hours of trainers and managers convincing us how our company was different, how to sell, overcome objections, and close deals. I also remember getting to know the people sitting next to me, working in small groups, commiserating with each other, and usually going out for happy hour after a tough week of training.
Individuals entering the workforce during this particularly unusual era are having completely different onboarding experiences utilizing videoconferencing technologies for meetings, trainings, and even virtual happy hours. While we are lucky to have these systems that allow us to meet virtually, one does wonder if the lack of actual human interaction will cause organizations to lose their signature company cultures.
Among those entering the workforce, recent law school grads working as associates since last year have had an extremely different experience than did their tenured colleagues. New attorneys historically spent long hours in the office in an effort to squeeze in as many hours as possible in order to advance, often to the detriment of their personal lives and creating an unhealthy work-life balance. Fast forward to 2020, most of these newbies have been able to work from home, affording them the opportunity to sneak in a quick workout, walk the dog, do a load of laundry, or just go outside for some fresh air for a few minutes. They’ve avoided the long hours trapped in their office, without a chance to have any personal time.
What will it mean for these individuals if (or when) they are forced back into the office? Will they have a significantly harder time entering that boiler room environment for the first time after their comfortable remote career starts? Could this be the genesis for a permanent cultural change in the law firm environment? Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to keep tabs on this subject!
David Netzer, President
Legal Tech Talent Network
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