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MANAGING THE OFFICE

Creating the right spaces for your post-pandemic law office

Staff have returned to law offices this summer, with more likely return in the fall. But the pre-pandemic office design might not work anymore, with some staff continuing full-time telework, others opting for part-time presence in the office—and many accustomed to the freedom they enjoyed while working from home. Allwork.Space, a company that focuses on what it calls The Future of Work, has this advice for reconfiguring offices for today’s needs: The open office may be a thing of the past. Large, one-size-fits-all spaces certainly don’t fit all needs, and can negatively impact productivity. Buildings may be static, but people are dynamic, so physical design must account for the motion of people through the static space. Re-designing your space for activity-based working can improve the workplace experience by better meeting… . . . read more

TERMINATION

To avoid a messy workplace theft investigation, can we just fire our prime suspect?

Question: Several years ago, when one of our employees was stealing from other employees’ purses and desks, we called the police. The process—calling the police, alerting our insurance carrier and interviewing multiple employees to show fairness so we wouldn’t get sued for wrongful termination when we fired the one employee—tore apart our office. Some of our best employees couldn’t believe we didn’t trust them. We tried to explain we had wanted to be fair, and that if we only singled certain employees, we’d stigmatize them forever, but two of our best, long-term employees were so angry they quit within a few months. Once again, we have a problem. Several employees have reported missing small things from their desks. These items appear to have been taken at night. Since everyone has… . . . read more

MANAGING THE OFFICE

The top 8 policies to include in your employee handbook

By Krystal Barghelame  What is an employee handbook? An employee handbook is an important living document for your employees that outlines your company policies, history, and culture for current and future employees. Although 87% of businesses with 10 to 200 employees have employee handbooks, HR experts agree that it’s best practice to start a handbook as soon as you hire your first employee, because it defines expectations and can protect you legally. Here are the main policies you’ll want to record in that employee handbook: Onboarding and joining the team One of the top motivations for businesses to create an employee handbook is to train new hires. So, kick things off by laying out the basics that every employee should know before coming through the front door. The employee onboarding section… . . . read more

WELLNESS

How managers can help with employee mental health

By Robert Half Continued stress has long been an impediment to a healthy workplace, especially when it leads to burnout—increased mental detachment from the job and reduced effectiveness. In a 2019 Robert Half survey of managers, a staggering 96% said their employees experience burnout to some extent. And in a related poll, 91% of workers themselves reported feeling at least somewhat burned out. And then came COVID-19 The anxiety and uncertainty associated with the pandemic has further gnawed away at mental well-being for many managers and employees. New stressors for home-based workers often included larger workloads due to leaner staffing, not being able to interact with colleagues in person and the challenge of caring for children or elders during the workday. In a 2020 global study by Qualtrics, SAP and… . . . read more

MANAGING THE OFFICE

TO DOs: Your May office checklist

It can be difficult to focus on work this month. May is when many of us come down with spring fever, yearning to get outside in the garden or on the hiking trails. Added this year is the anticipation life might be heading to some sort of normal after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, but uncertainty about planning activities. Start planning coverages for summer vacations. Many firms do not use temporary legal assistants or secretaries anymore. With stepped up efficiencies in the office, legal assistants or secretaries are often assigned to cover for an attorney while another staff member is out of the office. Looking at the schedules for the coming months now will ensure that there is sufficient coverage. If outside help is necessary, now is the… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

Post-pandemic period a chance to try flexible staffing strategies

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 hit our northern U.S. law practice hard. We cut employees, then salaries, and then we cut again. We lost half of our clients as their fortunes failed; other clients cut their work to the bone. Our revenue is down 70%. Some office staffers left our state when their spouses’ high-paying jobs evaporated. Others took off when COVID-19 combined with our cold, dark winter proved too much. Because these employees had talents we needed, we kept them as “snowbirds”. At first, it didn’t cause trouble. Everyone was working from home, so it didn’t matter where “home” was. Now that we’ve moved back into the office building, our local employees complain about the snowbirds. They feel the fair weather staff get an unfairly sweet deal, as… . . . read more

MANAGING THE OFFICE

Checklist: How to evaluate an office space for a move

The past year of the pandemic has brought major changes in office space needs for law firms. Law professionals and administrative staff have been working from home and participating in remote meetings and court appearances. Some see the possibility of continuing to work remotely even after COVID-19 restrictions are loosened, and some see the possibility of moving to home and office to locations away from city centers. If these developments are playing out in your law office, you might be looking at downsizing to a smaller office space or even migrating to another part of the country. When you are looking at a different office space, you might find this office space evaluation checklist helpful: The most important question: How will the location and layout of this space contribute to… . . . read more

PRODUCTIVITY

Technical issues and too many participants are biggest virtual meeting pet peeves

Have you had about enough of video meetings? If so, you’re not alone. A new study by global staffing firm Robert Half shows video calls may be wearing on workers. Almost three-quarters of professionals surveyed (72 per cent) said they participate in virtual meetings. Those respondents reported spending about a quarter of their workday (24 per cent) on camera with business contacts or colleagues. In addition: 44 per cent said they’ve experienced video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic. 59 per cent said video calls can be helpful but are not always necessary. 22 per cent noted that the practicality and novelty of video conferencing has worn off over the past eight months. 15 per cent confirmed they find virtual meetings inefficient and exhausting and prefer to communicate via… . . . read more

MANAGING THE OFFICE

Renting out extra space? Set up protective walls to avoid risk

With more law firm employees working from home during the pandemic, a firm may find itself living in too much space—and paying too much rent. One solution is to bring in a tenant. Usually the renter is a solo practitioner or a small firm, and the arrangement is good for everybody, because the firm collects the rent and the renter gets the amenities as well as the appearance of an association with the larger group. From a risk perspective, however, it’s a cause for concern. The firm has to look past the financial benefits to the danger spots. It has to think like a landlord and get signed documents and insurance policies. And more, it has to set up protections against the disasters specific to a law firm/law firm lease… . . . read more

TOOL

Model visitors’ waiver of COVID-19 infection liability form

As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, you run the risk of being sued by clients, vendors, guests and other visitors (“visitors”) who claim they contracted the virus at your office as a result of your inadequate safety measures. One way to limit liability is having visitors sign a form agreeing to waive their rights to sue you for COVID-19 infections before entering the office. Although there’s no guarantee that a court would enforce such a waiver, the Model Form below uses fairly conservative language that has been found to be enforceable in other situations. Caveat: The inclusion of the phrase purporting to insulate you against your own negligence in Sections 3 and 4 is fairly risky and you may want to talk to counsel about whether to use it… . . . read more


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