Soon after the start of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Dentons partners realized that they needed to do more for clients than ‘just’ supporting them with their new legal challenges. We reached out to many and had personal conversations about the effects that working remotely had on them and their teams. Today, we share our findings with you.

In addition to organizational challenges, remote working brings a new set of personal challenges. There has been an enormous change in the way we work and how we work together with colleagues. Working hours have changed; we benefit from spending more time with loved ones and enjoy fewer distractions in comparison to the office environment. Leadership are generally more aware that their colleagues emulate their behavior. In particular, there has been a shift of focus to holding team members accountable for the quality of the work delivered, instead of on the amount of hours worked.

A new way of working

A key trend is that teams are working different hours than before. This is partly attributed to the lockdown measures. It is seen as a combination of individuals trying to balance their additional responsibilities at home alongside working remotely, as well as incorporating activities that they would normally do outside office hours like a workout. It creates fluidity between ‘work’ and ‘life’ and is viewed positively because it creates a flexibility between work and other important elements in life.

Another trend that was already underway before the advent of COVID-19 was a focus on the quality of the work being delivered instead of on the number of hours physically spent in the office. The consensus is that this is here to stay. Given that it is practically impossible to check on when team members are working in remote environments, the focus now is more and more on delivering quality results on deadline.

The primary drawback of only connecting through devices is that it is more difficult to read moods and to see or hear how someone is feeling, especially in organizations where webcam use is limited. While legal team leaders have established various forms of informal catch-up meetings with their teams, recreating the informal chat next to the coffee machine is not easy.

Stay connected

Although it might be easier to connect with colleagues when you are in the same room, the current situation has shown that it is possible to do this remotely too. One step to connecting can be as simple as starting a meeting with a quick round-the-virtual-table to share how high or low the energy levels are.

Setting the tone from the top and leading by example is essential when working to create a safe environment for the team. For instance, showing vulnerability by sharing that you did not sleep very well will encourage others to share more personal details. This helps to forge a more personal connection and understanding that in turn drives collaboration – the manager’s ultimate goal. Focusing on positive feedback is another technique that helps to create a psychologically safe environment.

Returning to the office

With offices beginning to re-open after strict lockdowns, some people are hesitant to go back full- or even part time. For some it is driven by a desire to keep this new way of working that they have grown accustomed to. Many have adapted how and when they work to their ‘new’ remote environment – will a return to the workplace mean a return to the ‘old’ normal and a loss of the newfound flexibility that teams have embraced?

How can employers help?

Having adopted new ways of working, organizations have a unique opportunity to reshape the way their teams work in the future. Flexibility is key – enabling team members to work where and when they want to can help drive productivity. Technology has its limits but does not have to stand in the way of creating an environment in which all team members can flourish. Leaders can focus on stronger personal connections and psychological safety within teams, and have a heightened awareness and greater understanding of individual situations.

Marc Kuijper (Netherlands Managing Partner) 
Marc: +31 20 795 31 27
marc.kuijper@dentons.com
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Manja van Asma (Head of Talent)
Manja: +31 20 795 39 00
manja.vanasma@dentons.com
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