The vaccination campaign continues apace, business confidence is building around the UK as the pandemic continues its retreat and many companies are at last welcoming more of their people back to the workplace.

I am pleased to see so many of my colleagues returning to our three city centre offices in Leeds, Sheffield and York. People are eating out, socialising and creating that buzz that our city centre economies thrive on.

Just prior to Covid our business was piloting an agile or hybrid way of working and Covid has provided a very successful test bed for that.

Like many businesses, we have adjusted to the changing restrictions and worked with our staff to find the most beneficial working arrangements for our business and people.

The reasons for permanent home working are thankfully now in retreat so I am encouraging everyone to come back to the office aligned to their own individual agile working programme. All our offices will remain fully Covid-compliant for the time being.

A survey of around 600 business leaders by the Institute of Directors found that most organisations plan to adopt hybrid working even after restrictions ease, with 63% intending to shift to one to four days of remote working per week.

One in 10 are now looking to work from home entirely but that is not something which necessarily chimes with me.

Many people say they are more productive when working from home but challenges remain around technology, morale and mental health when people are isolated from their teams and wider organisations.

I am a great believer that people businesses such as the law need social interaction to run effectively and efficiently and give people a rewarding work life. We need to see and hear and interact with one other – that is the cement that bonds our business.

There are more than 150 of us at Lupton Fawcett and our best work often sparks from face to face interaction within the workplace, outside of formal meetings. And where can our up and coming people benefit from the osmosis of learning if not in contact with their peers and colleagues?

Six months ago commentators were writing the obituary for bricks and mortar space. Not so much now – in fact, there seems to be a swing the other way.

With lease events in the future for our business it is clear the demand for office space is increasingly very healthy, especially in Leeds. Space requirements are always under review in any organisation but I am confident there remains a future for bricks and mortar space in people businesses.

We have recently recruited some exciting and ambitious solicitors and continue to look for more talent that will form the next generation of the business. This generation of lawyers expect a rewarding career, working for a firm that offers them flexible or hybrid working with a lively city centre location – not the isolation of working behind a screen.

At the same time, they need to work physically alongside their peers and mentors, where they benefit from a learning environment in which ideas and creative thinking are more easily generated.

As I walk around Yorkshire’s city centres, things are returning to normal and I am confident that our regional hubs will enjoy great success in 2021.

Let’s stay safe and maintain an agile way of working but let’s not forget the cement that bonds all of our organisations and makes our cities such fantastic places to live, work and visit – people.

This article appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 13 May 2021

Welcome back to the office by James Richardson, Managing Partner
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