This is an interesting story on Mintz Levin trying to bring more lawyers back into the office by figuring out the best way to get people, starting with the partners, to find it valuable to be there, rather than by threatening associates’ compensation or mandating certain work hours, as other firms have done. My own experience managing people remotely (I am in the office most of the time, because it is better for my work, but not everyone who works with me is) is that top down dictates are pointless, but giving people a reason to be in the office – to see it as in their best interest for doing their work and being successful – is the best way to encourage a return to the office.

Frankly, in the short run, the “order lawyers (and others) back to the office” approach might work, but it won’t work in the long run. As this article points out, with the end of the bulge in the labor market created by the baby boom generation, we are moving quite clearly into an age of labor shortage. Law firms and other employers who want to hire and retain the best and the brightest are going to have to enact policies and take approaches – as Mintz is doing with regard to the question of remote versus office work – that encourage employees to act in ways that benefit the employer, rather than – as employers could easily do throughout the now bygone era of overpopulated labor markets – telling them what to do.

And what exactly does this have to do with the subjects of this blog? Well, the place to start is by improving employee benefit programs so that employees feel the requisite type of a stake in the employer, such as through matching 401(k) contributions, policing returns and fees in retirement plans so as to avoid imposing an unwarranted and hidden tax on employee retirement investments, establishing ESOPs, offering deferred compensation plans and an endless series of other approaches to improving the nature of ERISA governed employee benefits in this country. Heck, one might even consider offering pensions, like they did in the old days when people not only showed up for work at the office but stuck around at the job long enough to collect it.