15 Jun 2020

Dentons partially reopens London office to improve staff wellbeing

Measures include maximum 25% occupancy supported by office-based 'track and trace' system

Lisa Sewell

Lisa Sewell: 'The offices do look and feel quite different as a result of all of the measures we have put in place.'

Dentons is allowing selected London staff to return to its office from today (15 June) ‘for mental health, isolation or other wellbeing reasons’.

The firm says the measure is being closely supervised to protect anyone vulnerable to Coronavirus and is allied to a maximum 25% occupancy rate and an onsite ‘track and trace’ system.

The move makes it the first leading law firm to announce the reopening of its London office to large numbers of staff.

UK and Middle East managing director Lisa Sewell said there was no immediate business need for staff to work regularly from the office given a recent survey that found that 70% felt they could work fully from home with the rest saying they could work mainly from home. 

But she added that “now that the government has relaxed lockdown guidelines we want to accommodate those who would prefer to return to a more regular office-based working environment for mental health, isolation or wellbeing reasons”.

The maximum building occupancy is being enforced in order to enable physical distancing while employees wanting to work in the office will need prior approval.

In addition, ‘anyone vulnerable to Coronavirus or living with people who are vulnerable will not be allowed to return’, the firm stated.

Those approved to attend the office will be given passes that only work on their floors; will be required to sign in and out of the building; and notify the HR team immediately if they develop symptoms or are in close contact with people who do so anyone who was on the same floor at the same time can be asked to self-isolate.

The firm has also created a wellbeing committee, chaired by corporate partner Martin Mankabady, with a brief to ensure health and wellbeing issues are factored into the firm's wider decision-making and planning.

Other measures to facilitate the return to work include:

  • a clean desk policy and enhanced cleaning
  • staff encouraged to bring their own laptops to work
  • the disabling of desk phones
  • reduced occupancy of shared rooms by 50%
  • additional cleaning stations
  • one-way traffic system in circulation spaces
  • banning of movement between floors
  • two metre distancing clearly marked throughout, including in washrooms and lifts
  • maximum of four people per lift.

Sewell said: “Everyone will have their own views about the level of risk they are willing to take, so all we are doing is giving people a choice. There is absolutely no need or pressure for people to work from the office at this stage.

'The offices do look and feel quite different as a result of all of the measures we have put in place. There is no doubt that office life will be different for the immediate term and even when we fully return to a more regular office-based environment we would expect remote working to feature much more heavily for everyone as a part of normal working life.”

The firm said its other UK offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes and Watford will be opening in the coming weeks under the same policy.

Last month, Norton Rose Fulbright's EMEA arm set out its plans for a phased return to the offices across its network dependent on government recommendations in the relevant jurisdiction and only when staff are comfortable returning. 

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