Strategies for law departments to manage returns to work

Strategies for law departments to manage returns to work

03 August 2021 By Jerome Doraisamy

New research from Gartner offers insights into how best legal and compliance leaders can balance business needs and employee concerns moving forward.

Global research and advisory company Gartner recently surveyed 346 US-based consumers about public attitudes towards vaccination requirements, depending on workplace or social activities. While the company did not survey Australian professionals, the results offer food for thought for law departments are considering how best to manage return to work programs.

Respondents to the survey were more likely to approve of vaccine checks for entry in a healthcare setting (58 per cent) than in an office (35 per cent), yet a significant minority (25 per cent) did not feel they should be required in any of the settings listed in the survey.

Gartner analysts noted that the sample was “broad”, and many respondents did not work in the types of workplaces listed in the survey, therefore feelings on the issue might be different in individual workplaces.

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“Legal and compliance leaders for most organisations we speak to aren’t planning to mandate vaccines in their workplace,” said Gartner Legal & Compliance senior director of research Chris Audet.

“This data suggests that public opinion on the issue varies significantly according to the setting.

“Vaccination requirement is clearly a divisive issue and mandating them could be problematic for companies for a variety of reasons including privacy concerns, staff resistance, and logistical issues.”

The percentage of those surveyed who feel that vaccinations should be mandatory to participate in the following activities (which may pertain to professional services employment) was: travelling on an airplane (60 per cent), work involving direct contact with customers (43 per cent), attending in-person classes (37 per cent) and staying in a hotel (26 per cent).

Although most companies tell Gartner they do not intend to mandate vaccination for their employees, most did signal an intent to continue with some safety measures as workers return. Based on conversations with various organisations, Gartner experts listed five strategies for managing return to work programs. 

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  1. A and B schedules

“Organisations bring in employees on alternating weeks to reduce workplace crowding and better manage social distancing and hygiene measures,” Gartner said.

“In some cases, this may also help to accommodate those who prefer working remotely.”

  1. Hot desks and hotelling

Moving away from traditional assigned seating, Gartner continued, organisations are exploring “shared work areas or reservation systems for desks or meeting spaces, which also helps to comply with enhanced cleaning and distancing requirements”.

  1. Vaccine ‘safe floors’

Some have considered, the company noted, the idea of reserved space with reduced safety measures that are only available for vaccinated employees.

“Tracking vaccination status poses legal challenges in many jurisdictions,” it said.

  1. Phased and optional return

“Many employers are bringing back volunteers into the office first or approaching the return in phases,” Gartner noted.

“This helps to assess the efficacy of safety measures and how these new configurations affect employees and teamwork.”

  1. Redesigning the workplace

Some organisations, Gartner concluded, are “fundamentally redesigning” the office around collaboration rather than individual work, “making that the primary function of an office in a hybrid strategy, dedicating more floor space to collaboration and less to single desks”.

Strategies for law departments to manage returns to work
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