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What in-house leaders need before staff return to the office

New research has revealed what GCs and CLOs require in anticipation of asking their lawyers to come in for work.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 21 July 2020 Corporate Counsel
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A poll of in-house legal leaders, conducted by Gartner, has found that adequate physical and social distancing measures and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) are the most sought-after measures among general counsel and chief legal officers before those leaders ask their staff to come back into the office.

“Around half of the organisations we spoke to expect to reopen some workplaces for employees this month,” said Gartner legal and compliance managing vice-president Brian Lee.

“In most cases, however, things will look very different for employees, and employers will need to make significant changes to workspace planning and acquire new resources such as PPE.”


When asked what must be in place before having newly remote or furloughed workers back on site, almost all – 95 per cent – of leaders said social or physical distancing arrangements. Adequate PPE came in second at 79 per cent.

From there, 58 per cent want a safe work playbook, 56 per cent want visit screening processes, 52 per cent are seeking temperature check procedures and 38 per cent are requesting employee training.

“Several of these measures present quite serious legal, compliance and privacy concerns,” said Mr Lee.

“The relative popularity of certain measures among legal leaders is likely linked to the difficulty of ensuring compliance with not only laws and regulations governing privacy, but also changing guidance from various regulators. How companies check for symptoms, track employee movements and contacts, and collect test information could lead to serious privacy issues.”

In light of appropriate distancing measures and sufficient PPE being the most popular return to work measures, Gartner outlined a three-pronged approach via which in-house leaders could safeguard their teams: cleaning and equipping facilities for safety, rethinking the workplace design and educating key personnel.

Moreover, employees must be prepared in ways that serve to alleviate any anxiety about physical safety they may have at this juncture, Mr Lee added. This would necessarily involve communicating expectations about the timeline for returning to the office, revising corporate policies and procedures, and leading in a flexible fashion.

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