93% of Senior US Law Partners Say Firm Suffers from “Productivity Loss” When People Work at Home

As part of their recent webinar “Leveraging Technology to Improve Your Firm’s Performance and Profitability” by the Managing Partner Forum, 149 US-based Senior Partners and Firm Leaders where surveyed to discover the impact of COVID-19 on their firms. According to 93% of the survey participants, their firm’s productivity had suffered as a result of staff working from home.

The survey found that only 5% of firm leaders said that productivity had stayed the same, while only 2% had seen an increase since lockdown. But the vast majority surveyed said they had seen a 1-25% decline in productivity with 10% saying that decline was over 25%.

These results are in stark contrast the narrative we’ve seen in the UK particularly around home working (and one that we’ve championed ourselves!), that home working is how a lot of businesses will operate in the future and that the worldwide lockdown has been the first ‘big test’ that is starting to convince some traditionalists of the cost and productivity benefits of embracing a more flexible workplace.

We have also looked at some of the challenges and pitfalls that can arise when remote working (link blog) such as scheduling time and the struggle to maintain company culture, but even so these results throw up a lot of new questions about what the new working reality will be in 2021 and beyond.

Different Approaches for Different Roles?

Firstly, we don’t know if the respondents (all US-based Senior Law Firm Partners) were estimating productivity loss, a hard thing to quantify, or going on loss of revenue.

If it’s the former, then the result should be read with the understanding that as much as it demonstrates the impact of COVID on the US legal sector, it also shows the difference in what business leaders and business workers are most worried about during this crisis. Namely that workers are more focused on personal concerns for their job security & family finances whereas business leaders, who can financially weather the crisis are more focused on the bigger picture and steering their organisations through the outbreak.

If it’s the latter, then it is definitely cause for concern, but we must also appreciate that there are other factors such as the global economic downturn, freezing of budgets and general slowing of money moving between suppliers and clients.

Also factors such increased workloads and pressures on workers on reduced hours and covering work for furloughed colleagues’ impact are likely impacting workers output. Later in the survey they see that “Well-being has hit a record low of 46% with WORRY & STRESS leading causes” but that 59% of workers would prefer to stay working remotely after restrictions are lifted.

This figure is higher than a recent survey conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (subscription may be required to view article) which found that 32% of employees expect to work from home at least partially after the pandemic.

This raises the important question of who should remain working remotely going forward?

For some it is very viable and beneficial for their organisation, but for others being in the office and working with their teams is more important.

Investing in Technology

One other interesting result of the survey is that of 76 firm leaders asked, 43% were not sure what percentage of revenue their firm invested in technology and 41% expected to see an increase in future technology investment as a result of the COVID outbreak. Only 3% expected to decrease their technology investment.

One of the lessons learnt from the last global recession was that companies who invest in marketing and technology during a downturn emerge stronger and more competitive when the economy starts to grow again.

With so many unanswered questions on what the new working normality will be for many organisations, it shows that investing in technology is required to equip firms with the tools they will need to stay flexible and agile and weather the challenge ahead.

We’d love to hear your take on the impacts of remote working you are now seeing.

How has your organisation’s productivity been affected?

Are you planning to adopt wider remote working after restrictions are lifted?

Are you planning to invest in technology to support remote working as standard?

Leave a comment below or drop us a line to discuss the collaboration challenges you're organisation is facing right now and in the future.