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Law Practice Magazine

The Management Issue

Managing a Hybrid Workforce

Allison C Johs


  • There are pros and cons to implementing hybrid work arrangements.
  • To be successful, firms must set expectations for remote or hybrid work by creating a hybrid or work-from-home policy.
  • Pay special attention to scheduling, communication and technology.
Managing a Hybrid Workforce

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic proved that law firms could operate effectively with a remote workforce, many law firms have implemented flexible work-from-home or hybrid arrangements for both attorneys and staff.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Work Arrangements

The benefits of providing remote or hybrid work options include increased flexibility, improved productivity, greater work-life balance, cost savings for both the firm (reduced space costs) and for the individual (reduced or eliminated commuting costs) and better retention rates.

But there are potential cons to these models as well. Overseeing a hybrid workforce brings unique challenges that may impede the success of flexible policies if not addressed thoughtfully. These include isolation of remote workers, potential for burnout when remote workers have difficulty drawing the line between work and home, or are “always working,” and some increased up-front costs, particularly investments in technology.

With a hybrid workforce, the informal interactions that naturally happen in an office––passing one another in the hallway, chatting at the coffee station bumping into each other by the elevators or in the cafeteria––disappear for remote workers. As a result, managers need to be more purposeful in how they communicate with hybrid and remote employees to ensure robust collaboration, team building and camaraderie.

When some team members are in the office while others are remote, unintentional favoritism toward in-person staff can occur easily; the saying “out of sight, out of mind” often applies. Managers may unintentionally default to on-site employees for work assignments or interact more with in-office staff given their physical presence.

Communication, transparency and trust are essential for hybrid or remote work policies to succeed. Building this trust, developing appropriate channels of communication and creating transparency require forethought and an additional investment of time, but that investment can pay dividends.

Following are things to think about when overseeing a hybrid workforce at a law firm.

Setting Expectations

When moving from a fully in-person environment to a hybrid environment, it is important to set expectations for all workers, regardless of where they spend their working time. Create a hybrid work policy that sets out the scope, requirements and eligibility for remote or hybrid work.

Be clear about expectations for:

  • Availability. When and how are those working virtually expected to be available for both clients and firm employees? Will there be specific office functions remote workers are expected to attend?
  • Responsiveness. How quickly must remote workers respond to inquiries, whether from inside or outside of the firm?
  • Regular work hours. Are there specific hours that employees are required to work, or can they work at any time during the day? When are employees expected to be online How will hybrid employees’ schedules be structured? How will expectations differ for attorneys versus staff? Will employees be required to clock in and clock out? How will that be accomplished?
  • How remote and in-person employees communicate. What tools should be used for communication? How often must remote employees communicate with their teams?
  • Tools, equipment and supplies. Who pays for tools and equipment, and how do employees request these items? What technical support will be provided?
  • Health and safety considerations. How should employees set up their remote workstations for optimal performance? What guidelines does the firm provide for a safe work environment?
  • Security. How should employees secure confidential firm and client information? What protocols should be put in place to secure firm-related technology?

Scheduling and Consistent Hours

When all employees are working in the office, it is often easy to determine whether someone is busy or available; you can see whether they are in their office, whether their door is open or closed, etc. But with remote employees, it isn’t always as obvious whether an employee is available or not. This becomes even more complicated if the employee is working on a flexible work schedule.

With hybrid employees, it is important to develop a method for communicating the employee’s regular work schedule and hours so that others in the firm can tell right away when that person is available.

Some recommendations include:

  • Using Outlook's calendar to indicate when remote employees are "free," "busy" or "working elsewhere." For example, “working elsewhere” could denote an employee is working remotely outside the office. "Busy" might indicate the employee is in a meeting, with a client or in court. And "free" could mean the employee is in the office and available.
  • Adding a hybrid or flexible worker's hours to their email signature, especially if their schedule differs from the firm's core office hours.
  • Posting all employees' typical schedules on a shared calendar or document, either in Google Drive or the firm’s intranet.
  • Having remote employees establish regular “office hours” when they are accessible for calls or communication and circulating those hours firm-wide.

Protocols should be created so that everyone utilizes these features consistently to prevent confusion.


When working with a hybrid workforce, the quality of your technology will have a significant impact on the success of your interactions with remote colleagues. It's important to evaluate both the technology utilized within the firm and the tools leveraged by remote workers.

There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to hear or see what is happening during a meeting. When conducting hybrid meetings, the goal should be that every attendee is able to participate equally. That means being able to hear and see all participants equally well.

High-quality microphones are a must in any conference room where hybrid meetings will be conducted, as are cameras that can display all of the participants in the room. Intelligent cameras are available now that will shift to focus on the individual speaking, providing remote participants with the best possible experience. For example, Zoom’s Smart Gallery feature displays multiple video feeds from a single conference room, allowing remote participants to see each person in the conference room in their own Zoom window.

For the remote worker, an up-to-date camera and microphone, as well as good lighting are vital to ensure that other participants can see and hear their contributions. Purchasing a good webcam with an integrated microphone and adding a light source behind the camera to light the subject’s face can help.

Remote workers should also have access to similar equipment to what is made available for in-person workers. That may mean supplying remote workers not only with a computer, but possibly also multiple monitors, a high-quality scanner and printer.

Communication and Social Connection

To prevent remote employees from feeling disconnected from the team and the firm, you will need to make sure that you communicate as often with them as you do with in-person workers, and that the quality of your interactions with them doesn’t suffer.

With so many options for communication, from email to text messages to Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, instant messaging and telephone calls, keeping up with colleagues and clients can become overwhelming.

Create communication policies for your firm and team. Determine appropriate methods and tools based on the communication type, including whether exchanges should be real-time or asynchronous, individual or group based. Identify when communication can occur externally to standard meetings, and how information will be shared––via firm intranet, case management folders, etc.

Some questions to consider when developing your communications policies include:

  • What methods can be used to contact hybrid or remote employees?
  • Should in-office personnel be required to attend hybrid meetings in person, or can they join virtually? Under what circumstances will virtual attendance be allowed?
  • What are the ground rules for hybrid meetings with respect to turning on cameras, private or backchannel chats and utilizing interactive features?
  • Should meetings be recorded for future reference or to keep those who are unable to attend informed?

Make time for one-on-one communication with each direct report or team member, regardless of whether they are office-based or remote. Schedule regular virtual check-ins. Develop community with remote workers by creating virtual events, as well as in-person events. Celebrate wins both virtually and in person so all personnel have an opportunity to share in each other’s successes. Solicit input from both virtual and in-person workers through surveys and other feedback channels.

Conduct regular team meetings, preferably with a set agenda, at a predetermined time so that everyone knows to keep that time free on their calendar. This helps the team brainstorm, solve problems together and understand what each member of the team is working on, while also providing some time for social interaction. Start meetings with an icebreaker, introduce a non-work–related topic, or conclude meetings a few minutes early to allow for casual interaction without remote participants missing out.

Some additional meeting tips:

  • Send the meeting agenda and documents in advance so remote attendees can fully participate.
  • Consider occasional meetings where all participants join remotely to prevent perceived inequities.
  • Pause after questions to allow remote participants a chance to speak up before others react or move on.
  • Actively solicit input from remote colleagues who haven’t contributed voluntarily.
  • After summarizing decisions or action items, provide an opportunity for all attendees to ask questions or seek clarification.