The past year has provided legal counsel with a “unique perspective on what is important”, Ben Klug says, and as such, a holistic and empathetic approach to staff management is needed moving forward.
In the 1986 cult classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, Matthew Broderick’s titular character skips school to have the “best day of his life”, Scape general counsel and director of people Mr Klug says, in which Mr Bueller, his girlfriend and best friend do whatever they want.
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Mr Klug said that, as a leader not just of the legal department but of staff across the board in his company, he is “determined” to not tell people how to relax, and he doesn’t believe any company can or should do that.
“Let people decide how they themselves can best relax,” he advised.
“[2020 gave] us a unique perspective on what is important, and I recognised that our team really needed some time off. In October, as part of our Mental Health Month, we rolled out ‘Bueller Day’. We decided to just give everyone a day for themselves, and 70 per cent of people took that, whether they were working from home or not.
“The feedback was fantastic. It really helped me to regain focus in a really crappy time, and it was a token, or demonstration, that the business really values mental health.”
More broadly, Mr Klug continued, a key lesson for legal leaders from this past year was that staff are looking for two things from senior management: certainty and understanding.
With regards to the former, he said, “certainty is something that I cannot provide in a time of COVID-19. No one can, we didn’t know what it was going to be and we didn’t know how we were going to manage it. But, when you do have a plan in place and communicate it to people, and you can be confident in the solutions that you have found and in the steps that you are going to take, even that small amount of certainty means a great deal to people. It’s about creating just some predictability in a very unpredictable environment,” he outlined.
On the question of understanding, Mr Klug noted, the coronavirus pandemic “is a once in a lifetime situation and our staff needed us to be understanding and say, ‘Look, this is bizarre, we don’t know necessarily how best to help you through this, but if you can tell us, then we’re here to help you. If you need to take time off and care for your parents, if you need to be at home or be in the office as many of you want to, we will help you to do that. You are dealing with lots of anxious students and you are dealing with challenging situations where you don’t know how you’re going to get to work tomorrow’.”
To listen to the full conversation with Ben Klug, click below: