FCW Lawyers

Daily Brief 1 May 2020 | 11 May and returning to work


11 May and returning to work

We were probably the first law firm to work remotely in a paperless environment. Now we are planning our return.

As I write this article, contemplating how we return safely, our CEO Rob Patterson, shared the recent HBR Article by Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber, ‘What Makes an Office Building “Healthy” ‘. An article that is worth serious reading and reflection.

Why is return so important?

As inspiring as our technology is, we ache for the collegial company of  each other and we are ‘over’ isolation. I, for one, am running out of recipes. We have learnt great lessons which will stay with us and change our new normal but being together, sharing spontaneity and moment to moment learning is irreplaceable.

I have been moved by the commitment of my team. Commitment to adaption, learning, clients fears and needs for urgent assistance and honouring our culture. But as I look in the gallery of Zoom I see the faces of people I care about and want back around me in a real tribe not just a virtual one.

What is our plan?

The key elements involve a recognition of the hierarchy of control of risks. COVID-19 is a high risk. Our plan involves five elements:

  1. Rosters of employees across teams attending (protect key person risks and ensure office space utilisation has social distancing)
  2. Structured cleaning of office  and personal cleaning
  3. Improved processes around working from home
  4. Social distancing rules and processes that are enforced
  5. Illness rules – stay at home with any symptoms

Yes, we have ideas as a leadership group but over the next week we will consult. Not only because of the safety obligations and Award obligations when major change is happening (but as Lawyers with core commitments-our values, we always act lawfully with our employees) but because it is our employees’ health and workspace and we want to hear from them. We want the best outcome. We want to get it right.

Why is it so important to get it right?

People are tribal. Isolation harms them. It damages their health and productivity. We work better when our neuropsychological links don’t have to stretch across cyberspace but dash through the air of a meagre distance of 1.5 metres away. Part of any great culture is the hunger of people to hold dear their culture and drive their, and their co-employees performance through the organisational purpose. We need to come home. But we need to do it using all the learning we have so we do it safely, respectfully and deliberately.

What issues are we working on at the moment?

The dominant issue left is managing remote learning for our teams’ children or needs associated with COVID-19 requiring children to be home. Our children always come first. We have a lot to learn to build our systems to manage this in a way that enhances our business and doesn’t throw further pressure on our employees, particularly on the Mum’s in our firm.

Will we get it right?

I’m not sure that is a useful or fair question. But the Productivity KPI’s (PKPI’s) and Health Performance Indicators (HPI’s) will tell us if we are close and improving. They must be read together because productivity with declining HPI’s is fatal for  a business. But where PKPI’s are solid  and HPI’s improving, you know the business is in a sustainable  place and can invest in growth.

We will watch our PKPI’s and HPI’s and monitor employee health, concerns and needs. I think we will have a good plan. It will get better as we consult on it and be committed to improving it as we learn more, listen and adjust. We have a long journey ahead of us. Not a pleasant one. Our focus must be on health and happiness. Productivity, innovation and development will flow.

Have a question or need advice?

Our team is available to clarify any questions you have and provide the right advice for your business and workforce. Please contact Andrew Douglas at andrew.douglas@fcwlawyers.com.au or on 0488 151 503.

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