COVID-19 has certainly been a game-changer in the way law firms operate, and we may have to get used to a permanent shift in work practices. Firms must remain open to more remote working and have a contingency plan in place should a second wave of the pandemic happen. As we continue to see restrictions eased across Australia and New Zealand, here are some tips on how to handle the transition out of lock-down.

Strengthen your digital connections

Teleconferencing has come of age in the last six months, and this technology will continue to be a vital tool for any legal practice moving forward. Now is the time to check in with your IT team and prioritise your firm’s IT needs to ensure your digital communication is high quality and secure. Every employee should have a secure digital connection set up, whether they’re working from home or the office. Of course, pay due attention to sensitive legal documentation when going digital.

Stagger your staff to help with social distancing

With experts predicting that a return to normal business practices could still be some months away, firms should consider and plan measures to ensure employees’ safety. Decide which services are essential to be performed in the office, such as the IT and cleaning departments, and which can continue to be performed remotely. Use rotational shifts for those employees in the office and keep practicing social distancing. This may mean splitting or relocating some departments, so that workstations are spaced far enough apart.

New era, new policies

Some of our normal office practices may be changed until further notice. As your employees start to return to the office, your firm might need to change operational approaches, rather than returning to old ones. Instead of weekly all-staff meetings, consider running smaller meetings by department, or virtual meetings to link everyone in the firm. Review and strengthen your office hygiene policies and communicate new requirements clearly to all staff. Hand sanitiser and frequent hand washing should be mandatory for all staff, as should daily disinfecting of all office surfaces, especially in high-traffic areas. No staff should attend the office if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, including fever or runny nose.

Adopt better communication strategies

The long months of lockdown have proved how essential communication is to our working lives. Just as scaling down communication was challenging at the start, transitioning back to normal may also pose difficulties. Start by using social tools to reconnect employees in the office and at home.

Be empathetic

The pandemic has left an indelible mark on all of us, and the effects of COVID-19 will be played out for months to come. While some team members might be raring to get straight back in the swing of things, others may be slower to adjust to transitioning back to a more normal form of working. Adopt an empathetic and open approach when you communicate with your employees for the sake of their mental health.

Easing our way out of COVID-19 will be a work in progress and most office routines will face their fair share of setbacks at first. Begin the transition phase now to help pave the way for a smoother return to work.