Latest news – In-house counsel key to COVID-19 response; Top-tier firms in mental health initiative; Positives among pandemic gloom

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership] October 30, 2020

Corporations turn to in-house counsel during pandemic

A new report from legal recruitment firm Taylor Root indicates that corporations are relying heavily on their legal departments during COVID-19.

The 2020 Global In-House Market Report & COVID-19 Impact Survey found that 66 per cent of the general counsel/heads of legal respondents were actively involved with crisis response and business continuity planning, with a further 26 per cent saying they were partially involved. Almost two-thirds of respondents suggested that “workload versus capacity” was the biggest challenge they faced during the pandemic. In short, they had too much to do.

In response to the work-from-home trend during the pandemic, most lawyers felt they were more productive at home, and wished to continue working from home in some capacity. However, the lack of interaction with the business actually made their jobs harder to perform from home on a full-time basis. Eighty-two per cent of respondents commented on the challenges of balancing personal and professional life, with 41 per cent stating this was the biggest challenge they faced during the pandemic. The survey results show that working from home will remain a genuine option for the vast majority, but that the office still holds an important place in the ‘new normal’.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • business are currently experiencing a variety of legal risks, with employment/human resources (83 per cent), contracts (61 per cent) and supply chain disruption (56 per cent) seen as the top three risks posed by COVID-19, regardless of company size;
  • in terms of in-house counsels’ biggest personal challenges, managing a remote team (67 per cent) and providing legal counsel on unprecedented issues (56 per cent) were the top two challenges; and
  • more than 70 per cent of people believe they are more productive while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic times, and would prefer to continue remote work if given the opportunity to do so. However, the 30 per cent that felt less productive expressed concern for their work-life balance, stating that it was difficult to balance the responsibilities of their job and family.

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Four top-tier firms back mental health alliance

A quartet of Australia’s biggest law firms have teamed up with other businesses to launch a new mental health alliance aimed at improving wellbeing in the workplace. Clayton Utz, DLA Piper, King & Wood Mallesons and MinterEllison are part of Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA), which seeks to deliver real impacts for people who are suffering from workplace-related mental health issues.

The initiative comes in response to research indicating that $13 billion is lost by Australian businesses each year due to untreated mental health conditions through absenteeism, reduced productivity and compensation claims. About 3 million working Australians have mental ill-health, or care for someone with mental ill-health.

CMHAA has three strategic priorities: providing safe settings, driving lasting change and empowering leaders. It is part of a growing global movement for better workplace mental health, which began in the UK almost a decade ago with the establishment of the City Mental Health Alliance UK. The group has stated that a number of Australian business leaders had felt for some time that more could be done by corporate Australia to support mental health in the workplace, and they decided to act on that view.

With the strategies and support of mental health experts, CMHAA hopes members will find, test and deliver solutions that work.


90% of businesses find virus ‘bright spots’

New American research reveals that most businesses are finding bright spots amid the gloom of the pandemic.

In a survey of more than 2800 senior managers in the US by global staffing firm Robert Half, nine out of 10 respondents suggest their organisation has improved operations or pursued new opportunities as a result of COVID-19. Among the actions they have taken include ‘Moved forward with digital transformation’, ‘increased focus on data analytics’, ‘redesigned job roles’ and ‘implemented or improved e-commerce functionality’.
“The pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to embrace innovation and emerging technologies in order to enhance service offerings and keep afloat,” says Jeff Weber, executive director of Robert Half Technology. “Business growth cannot happen without the right tools and people in place to identify and satisfy customers’ changing expectations.”

While change can be daunting, organisations are realising its many benefits, the research shows. Senior managers were asked, “Which, if any, of the following has your team or company experienced because of changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic?” The top responses included:

  • more frequent communication from leadership;
  • improved collaboration within and across teams;
  • more innovation;
  • greater transparency and visibility into business priorities; and
  • more efficient processes resulting in faster turnaround times.

The online survey was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm from July 10 to August 9, 2020.