I recently came across an article that discusses the reopening of law offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article confirms some themes that I have been hearing from my connections in the legal world. One, law firms would be wise not to reopen too soon. Two, some firms are really good at providing the right support to work efficiently and effectively from home. Some are not as good. Three, some law firms really care about the health and well being of their people. These firms support work from home and limit the number of people physically in the office. Some firms will rush to reopen causing anxiety and distress for staff.
The author of the article points out that New Jersey and New York law firms that forced employees to come to work during Superstorm Sandy, or other inclement weather, will probably push their people to come back too soon during this pandemic. While I do not necessarily agree with his premise, I do know that returning to work is a concern for many.
The most common stress that I hear about is commuting. Many who rely on public transportation are concerned about being herded onto trains and buses with little protection. Likewise, many lawyers work at firms where elevators are necessary to get to the office. The closed space of the elevator is a concern when everyone heads back to work.
Another issue? People have become accustomed to working from home. In addition to no long commutes, lawyers have learned to be productive. They have also come to appreciate spending time with their families. Law firms should be aware of this when formulating their return to work policies.
The reopening of law offices is a complicated issue. Some law firms value the safety and well-being of their staff. These firms will listen to the concerns of their people. Further, they will make accommodations to alleviate stress while allowing for productivity. On the other hand, other firms will not make similar accommodations. It does not matter if you are a clerk or a successful partner, you will have to return to the office as dictated by management. If this is your situation, there are options.
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