Innovation Will Guide Office Reentry for Law Firms

March 8, 2021, 9:01 AM

As companies begin to plan for a post-Covid-19 world, how we work and where we work—and all the associated questions—are on the table. In fact, never has the future of the workplace been as up for discussion as it is today. It is ripe for disruption and innovation.

An innovative and agile mindset will separate the organizations of tomorrow from those of yesterday. Companies that are not afraid to question the status quo will attract and retain the best talent. At Goodwin, we have taken this moment as an opportunity to rethink the future of work. The following are some considerations as we prepare for the workplace of tomorrow.

Balancing Flexibility With a Focus on Culture

The normalization of remote work is perhaps the most apparent outcome of the pandemic. While a commitment to a more flexible, work-from-anywhere workplace is welcome and overdue, consider its effect on your organization’s culture and sense of community.

Culture takes a long time to build but can dissipate quickly. And culture is certainly stronger when people can spend time together; spontaneous meetings and interactions increase our sense of community, foster development and mentorship, and spark innovative ideas at a moment’s notice.

Such meetings are at the foundation of an innovative and collaborative culture and we must make a concerted effort to preserve what makes us unique while maintaining a healthy, safe environment for our clients and colleagues.

As we evaluate the post-Covid-19 workplace, we must balance the flexibility afforded by remote work with its cultural implications. It is a careful balance, which—if calibrated properly—can benefit rather than harm your culture.

Destigmatizing Mental Health With a Holistic Approach

While the prospects of a return to the office—and with that some semblance of normalcy—are exciting, every organization should do what it can to minimize the stress that may come from transitioning back into the office.

Prior to the pandemic, Goodwin introduced a program in its New York office that makes available mental health counselors who specialize in working with legal industry professionals. We have continued this commitment remotely for all our U.S. and U.K. offices, and will re-implement in-person counseling globally once it is possible.

We believe that counselors who are attuned to the pressure points of our industry will be uniquely equipped to notice underlying mental health needs that some may internalize. In addition to initiatives addressing work-related mental health issues, we also must recognize our role in conversations around social justice and provide our colleagues with counselors who will listen to their concerns.

To destigmatize mental health, we all must be willing to start the conversations that will lead to a more open and inclusive work environment.

Focus on Workplace Health and Well-Being

Speaking of health, we have doubled down on well-being initiatives during the extended remote work period, launching several new offerings under the firm’s You@Goodwin program. We will look to strengthen this commitment upon our return to our offices.

Whether it is a charitable walk or an office softball game, workplace health and well-being will be a critical component in not only maintaining a health-conscious office, but in bringing our people back together the right way.

Is Office Space as We Know It Going Away?

We will still have our offices, but how they are laid out and how they are used is likely to change. Much of what has been in vogue for modern office design is being rethought. Sure, we will still have ample open spaces for collaboration and for coming together, but those designs need to adapt to heightened health and safety concerns.

At Goodwin, we have developed and rolled out technology to help us reevaluate and adapt our existing spaces for the post-Covid-19 world. While we are committed to our offices, we are looking closely at our current footprint to ensure our office space is aligned with our evolving vision for in-office work around the globe.

We must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of our office space? Then we must re-imagine our workplace through that lens. Doing so will provide us with the agility required to best serve our clients and our people going forward.

Considering the Environmental Impact

A silver lining of remote work is that, as an organization, we have greatly reduced our carbon footprint. Through actions large and small, from reducing commuting to curbing printing, we have made a positive difference.

We have taken this time to review how our business operations affect the environment and, as a result, we are committed to returning to our offices in a much more environmentally friendly way. We all would be better served if we took a hard look at what is essential to getting the job done and make every effort to minimize our impact on the environment.

All of us within the legal industry must forge ahead with a mindset that supports change. It is this mindset—one that embraces innovation and does not shy away from disruption—that will allow us to return to our offices stronger, healthier, and smarter than ever before.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

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Maureen Naughton was named the chief innovation officer of Goodwin Procter in 2020. In this role she helps facilitate an innovative culture at Goodwin and focuses on continuous improvement in people, processes, technology, and data at the firm. She joined the firm in 2015 as managing director of the program management office and in 2018 took on an additional role leading litigation practice management.

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