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Jessica Mazzeo and Rasheda Stewart, Griesing Law. Courtesy Photos Jessica Mazzeo and Rasheda Stewart, Griesing Law. Courtesy Photos

As the COVID-19 global pandemic enters its eighth month, with no definitive date on things returning to “normal,” law firms have been forced to change their status quo on pretty much everything. Operating a law firm during this time of crisis has brought with it a unique set of wide-ranging challenges. For instance, while some industries have allowed remote working for years, remote working at a law firm has been rare. Seemingly overnight, firms went from response planning to shutting down offices and sending employees home to work. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, many firms had no choice but to implement a remote work atmosphere in an effort to keep attorneys and staff healthy and comply with mandatory shutdown orders. Law firm management is now pulled in many different directionsfrom managing communications and crisis response planning, to maintaining continuity of the firm’s operationsall while keeping employees engaged and monitoring and tracking performance.  While the pandemic has been mostly taking from everything and everyone in sight, in small ways, it has also been giving back. Firms have generally struggled with employee engagement and the ability to find successful alternatives to the ever-dying annual performance review. The pandemic, however, has provided us with opportunity to cure these challenges.

The initial excitement from months of firmwide virtual happy hours and socials can only last so long. Easy-to-implement engagement ideas can include things such as weekly email competitions seeking pictures of work at home life, scavenger hunts or firm history trivia contests. Select a few random winners who receive a nominal gift card.  Also incorporate dress down days for those select staff working in the office. Firms can also boost engagement by recognizing and rewarding employees for their good performance. Employee recognition can help productivity and keep your employees dedicated. Recognition can come in a form of a gift card, home delivery from a local restaurant, a simple acknowledgment like saying thank you and calling out an employee for their hard work during a virtual firm meeting. As we approach the holiday season, look at interactive virtual celebrations that can bring employees together, even if physically far apart (or at a six-foot distance!). Consider hiring an outside facilitator to run a virtual wine and cheese tasting or a virtual cookies or gingerbread house competition. Normally at this time of year firms would be supporting in-office food and toy drives and should still do that even if it’s replaced with electronic gift cards that the firm collects to send to local charities.

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