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.
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.
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.
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
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