Together, apart- staying connected while working from home

They say that every cloud has a silver lining and that the shimmer from the current viral gloom for law firms will surely lead to a greater resolve and resilience the next time we are plunged into a crisis.

We haven’t had a Business as Usual-challenging event like this before. Our weather-related disruptions have always been short-term, but Covid-19 has the potential for months of disruption. And it is obviously focusing the mind like nothing before it. I’ve talked to quite a few firms in recent days, all of which have been busily buying up laptops and phones so they can equip those opting to work from home. But there’s also been a keen awareness of the impact of such a disruptive event on the core cohesion of a firm.

It’s great that people can continue working from home, but the suddenly distributed workforce risks higher levels of disassociation and disengagement. Stressors might be placed on the practice fabric because of the impact on clients, e.g. a need to reset budgets or streamline teams in the face of reduced revenues. Managing the mood and morale of a workforce where every day is a potential move into the unknown, and where there is a clear business fall-out, this is taxing leadership just as much as getting equipment in before stock shortages bite.

Just because laptops and remote access are in place doesn’t mean that effective colleague and client engagement is; at a time of uncertainty and rapidly developing events, of course, communication matters but far more important is that sustained sense of connection, care, cultural attachment, and of organisational responsibility – we want to get this right for you. With so much effort going into mobilisation and a lack of an existing engagement strategy, are firms really able to reach out and reassure staff working from home sufficiently?

From what I can see, firms are not panicking while their staff are working from home. They are taking sensible, practical steps to deal with this new threat to health and business. And there’s also plenty of awareness – right now – of the need to accelerate an engagement strategy once the crisis abates. There’s been nothing like this in peacetime to test the integrity, resilience and resolve of organisations; nothing that has thrown such a lens on the need for unity, cooperation and stability. Let’s hope that the silver lining doesn’t get forgotten once we reach the sunny uplands of a post-virus summer.

Peter Gill, Engage Solutions Group

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