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23 April 2020

Under lockdown socialising between international colleagues has increased

Colin Passmore outlines the measures Simmons & Simmons has been taking to promote staff wellbeing during the Covid-19 crisis

Portrait of Colin Passmore

Colin Passmore: 'We have made efforts to maintain the sense of comradery that people benefit from whilst in the office.'

At Simmons & Simmons we have always placed a great emphasis on our culture; recognising that connectedness and collaboration are central to our success as an international law firm.

Over the last few years, we have developed our focus on wellbeing, designing initiatives aimed at raising awareness and supporting colleagues’ mental and physical health.

This has included training mental health first aiders and champions across the business, a comprehensive  employee assistance programme, becoming signatories to the Mindful Business Charter, weekly mindfulness sessions, on-site yoga, flexible working and a wellbeing programme for trainees. 

As the COVID-19 situation has taken its hold across the globe, we recognise that this is a concerning time for everyone. Connectedness, support and a robust focus on wellbeing is needed now more than ever. 

We have drawn inspiration from organisations across a range of industries to consider how to deal with isolation, how to create and maintain domestic harmony; how to support children and even, learning from astronauts.

Wellbeing hub

Our new wellbeing hub on our intranet points employees and partners to internal and external resources available, ranging from Joe Wicks workouts to helping grandparents with FaceTime. 

We have sought to keep email traffic to a minimum whilst ensuring our people can access the range of inspirational articles, podcasts and webinars designed to help people cope during this time.

The hub is also an opportunity to remind employees and partners of the various people in and outside of the firm who can offer support and provide practical advice. 

We have also engaged our employees and partners to create their own content in the form of vlogs and blogs, which we are routinely posting on the hub as well as the firm’s LinkedIn page.

This has proved an engaging and authentic way to empower our people to share their personal experiences, identify common ground and to benefit from the advice of colleagues.

We have  made efforts to maintain the sense of comradery that people benefit from whilst in the office.

There are team and 1:1 video chats via Microsoft Teams or Skype happening every day. Our Milan-based employees and partners have a daily call at the end of each day and are encouraged to bring along a spritz, parma ham and a non-work related story about what’s happened in their day.

During the course of the outbreak, the firm’s senior management team have hosted firmwide calls to communicate important updates in the wake of the current situation, take questions from staff and highlight our wellbeing resources. 

Quiz nights

A number of quiz nights have been hosted virtually across departments and involving family members, housemates and pets too.

Teams are sharing interests in hobbies; whether these be gardening tips or TV/book recommendations. Others enjoy taking joint lunches and/or coffee breaks. Team step trackers have been used to encourage cohesion and physical activity. 

Our diversity networks have continued to meet regularly and organise virtual events. Socialising between international colleagues has increased through the merits of technology.

Externally, we have used our responsible business programmes to focus on supporting those in greatest need across our local communities.

Donations via our charitable foundation; volunteering opportunities; supporting students on our Young Talent Programme; and access to justice casework and increased attendance at our pro bono legal clinics all form an important part of our response.

We are liaising regularly with contacts at our longstanding charitable partnerships including The Big Issue Foundation to consider how we can increase the level of support from the firm. This includes signposting our colleagues to the opportunity to purchase The Big Issue magazine via their website.

We have received excellent feedback and engagement across the network on our efforts to date. None of us know how long this will continue for but I am pleased that our employees and partners alike have commented on the helpfulness of the resources we have put in place. 

Virtual yoga

I have seen a positive shift in proactive conversations and attitudes to wellbeing in recent weeks. Attendance at our weekly mindfulness and now virtual yoga sessions has trebled.

And of course, we are not alone in considering how best to address this current situation. Our clients too are grappling with the same considerations. We have delivered client lunch and learn sessions focussed on wellbeing. And we are routinely exchanging ideas and sharing best practice.

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves, we will continue to come together, to listen to our people and to adapt our offering so that we can provide the right level of support at this challenging time. 

Colin Passmore is senior partner of Simmons & Simmons

Further reading on the Covid-19 pandemic

After Covid-19 lockdown will virtual arbitrations become the new normal? — Michela D'Avino and Bahaa Ezzelarab argue that remote arbitration hearings should be carefully considered as an option to avoid costly delays

A question of timing: the different responses of US and UK elite law firms to Covid-19 — Looming decisions over associate pay and bonuses are a factor in the timing of UK law firm Coronavirus measures

Above all, this crisis too will pass — Rob Millard foresees large law firm mergers and accelerated digitisation in the wake of Covid-19

'It is about being proactive and decisive' — Norton Rose Fulbright EMEA managing partner Peter Scott on the thinking behind the firm's flexible working scheme

General counsel braced for six-month shock to their businesses, survey finds — MoFo poll of 110 GCs finds them making unprecedented decisions as HR issues dominate

'Now is the time for law firms to deliver on their stated values' — Consultant Tony Williams advises law firm leaders to avoid knee jerk decisions and go into communication overdrive during the Covid-19 crisis

Unprecedented response to Covid-19 is 'testament to legal profession's resilience — Stewart Salwin is impressed by how quickly the Arizona courts have adapted to the coronavirus crisis

Staff welfare, supply chain and privacy: the coronavirus-related issues keeping GCs awake at night  — Linklaters, Baker McKenzie and Ropes & Gray have published the most sought-after briefings, according to Lexology

'I have realised how powerful technology now is': an Italian lawyer's take on Covid-19 — The lockdown is forcing Italians to embrace digitisation - and that even includes its public officials, writes Gabriella Geatti

Coronavirus risk may be unprecedented, but the fundamental principles of crisis response still apply — Crisis PR specialist Bethaney Durkin advises law firms impacted by the coronavirus to act quickly while avoiding a kneejerk response

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