The abrupt, seismic shift to our every-day life, spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, has catapulted a growing trend for flexible, remote working. Whilst in 2019, only 1.7 of the 32.6 million people in employment in the UK were mainly working from home (an increase from previous years), a recent directive has compelled all but key workers to hastily adjust to homeworking. As the world adapts to this new reality, the likelihood that the recent outbreak will cause a permanent shift to our working patterns increases.
Asserson has had remote working baked into its business model since 2005. One of Israel’s leading international law firms – further, Israel’s only English law firm – with established teams across two countries, we are familiar with the challenges currently faced by many businesses and explore some of the best practices and practical considerations which have helped our operations flourish in this new reality.
Whilst communication has continued virtually as usual via emails, texts and calls, especially with international clients regarding cross-border matters, Asserson has been conscious not to inundate and “clutter” staff inboxes with emails. Rather, weekly reports and regular team meetings over Zoom help to delegate workloads and provide important notices. The introduction of Microsoft Teams has also helped organise ongoing cases and projects in a more structured, cohesive manner. The firm has endeavored to leverage the strengths of every employee, whether that be legal expertise spanning decades or an aptitude for technology, to improve the quality of our client service and team work. The firm has also made practical adjustments to our way of working as the judicial system of England and Wales shut down. For example, the property world, having hung on to an outdated insistence on original signatures, has rapidly adapted to the digital world during this period, and Asserson has led the way, insisting that outmoded demands for hard copy signatures be jettisoned, to conform with the new reality.
The main challenge facing most companies at this time includes maintaining an internal office culture and managing employee physical and mental health. Asserson has continued to host its weekly happy hours, informative lectures and seminars with internal and external speakers, on both legal and spiritual subjects, and has recruited a personal trainer to lead firm-wide workouts – all via Zoom. For those struggling emotionally during this uncertain time, counselling has been offered. Budgets have been allocated for struggling with productivity at home to rent otherwise unused “granny flats” from neighbours, without risking contact with others. Additionally, support groups have been set up to advise those facing financial difficulty with mortgages, rents and utilities. As an employer of a great many British, Australian and US lawyers who moved to Israel to work at the firm, Asserson has faced some profoundly human challenges as the world plunged into an unprecedented shutdown; many employees have been separated from their families and loved ones for an indefinite period of time. For some employees, Asserson explored the possibility of booking last minute flights to repatriate their staff. For those facing celebrating Passover alone due to isolation rules, Asserson arranged for celebratory food packages to be couriered to their homes.
Out of this period of separation, the sense of comradeship, which so characterises our firm in the heart of Tel Aviv, has only grown stronger. Now, despite new government directives in Israel indicating an imminent, albeit phased, return to the office, it is becoming more apparent that this historic period spent at home will has the potential to change the function of office spaces forever. As schools remain shut and our employees have smoothly adapted to this new working pattern, Asserson is proud of the way the firm has remained productive as ever under these trying times.
Article written by: Syvanne Aloni