Bonuses and Office Attendance - A Winning Combination?

Posted in Latest News on 31 Oct 2023

Post-pandemic, we’ve seen how people like and choose to work changing. Flexible and remote working options are now much more typical than they used to be, and employees are empowered to ask for these options.   

Here at Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, we offer home working options for our employees, while most vacancies we recruit for offer a hybrid working model as an incentive for applicants. Our current salary survey found that nearly 50% of respondents shared this benefit. But we’ve recently seen a new strategy from some firms trying to encourage employees back into the office – tying bonuses to office attendance, usually for a minimum of three days a week. Might this become standard practice across the industry, or is this an idea that might weaken strong working teams and disincentivise the very people it’s trying to encourage?  

This proposal has only been considered by larger international firms, but it has attracted attention from those who wonder if this might become an industry standard target. Traditional ideas about the industry have changed since the pandemic, but some firms want to move back to full offices, even if just for a few days a week rather than five. However, many people who have been able to find a better work/life balance in the new working world may find themselves quite apprehensive at this news – especially if a bonus they have earned through hard work could be taken away from them just because they haven’t been in the office. Of course, there are positives and negatives to this policy: team bonding and training are always more substantial in person than virtually, and having a target like this can be seen as a straightforward way to see how close you are to getting that bonus, especially considering targets like this can often leave a lot of room for ambiguity. The big one that always comes up is culture: a good workplace culture can increase job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.   

However, this policy has strong negatives: focusing solely on attendance over performance might affect the quality of the work being done. After all, why bother performing better when just being there is enough to guarantee a bonus? There are also considerations for diversity and inclusion: employees with childcare commitments, disabilities, and other factors might be pushed out of bonuses they are entitled to. Many employees save money by not commuting to and from the office and may be working longer hours, (if you don’t have to travel somewhere, you might be more inclined to add that time to your working day), and of course, probably the biggest reason is a fear of changing goalposts. After all, if making people work three days in the office for bonuses works – what about making people work five days for a bonus?  

It’s hard to see there being an approach that keeps everyone happy. If firms are going to consider this, the best thing they can do is be transparent and upfront about the policy; they will also want to consider other metrics to assess bonuses and ensure flexibility where necessary. However, it is easy to see how this might become a popular policy, and we here at Douglas Scott will keep an eye on it to see if law firms decide to take it up for more staff. 

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