Work from home
For the portion of your workforce that will work entirely or partially from home, you may want to consider training related to cybersecurity and leading remote teams. For employees both within your legal department and the larger enterprise, carefully consider immigration, labor, and employment ramifications of remote work arrangements.
Cybersecurity and data protection
1. Common challenges:
- Increases in socially engineered cyberattacks targeting financial and personally identifiable information (PII) data
- Cyber risk levels are elevated due to an increase in phishing and malware attacks
- Some communication and collaboration tools may not be secure, even where these platforms have their own built-in controls
- Client and customer data may be more vulnerable when employees work from home if employees are transmitting data on unsecure networks and/or saving or printing on home devices
- Employees who previously did not work at home may not be familiar with cybersecurity and data protection leading practices. Most are likely to benefit from regular reminders related to cybersecurity leading practices
- Potential threats to attorney-client privilege may arise where there are risks to cybersecurity or where attorney-client conversations may be overheard (by family members, for example)
- Roll out or reoffer cybersecurity training to employees, including training and guidance on how to best leverage controls for the various communication and collaboration tools they use. Repeat and reinforce training as often as necessary.
- Communicate new and emerging threats as they arise to legal and throughout the enterprise. Provide remote working employees with the tools and instructions necessary to protect data and maintain data privacy protocols.
- Prioritize the preservation of the attorney-client privilege in a remote working environment. Remind employees not to forward documents to personal email accounts or use other unsecure methods to transfer files or communicate with clients. Likewise, counsel them to avoid privileged conversations in the presence of family members or other housemates.
1. Common challenges:
- Even before COVID-19, many respondents to Deloitte Consulting LLP’s 2019 Human Capital Trends1 survey believed that new leadership skills would be required in the 21st century, with half citing an ability to manage on a remote basis as being important.2
- Legal executives have also identified leadership training as a top priority,3 and thought should be given to what new, different, or more deeply developed skills leaders may need in a fully or partially virtual environment.
- The Simply Irresistible OrganizationTM framework provides a starting place for thinking through which leadership skills you may want to emphasize. Note that, while the areas of focus may be the same in both virtual and in-person environments, the appropriate leadership behaviors may be very different.
- More specifically, you may want to consider the following to help engage your teams in a virtual environment:
- Check in frequently. Keep communications positive, if possible, but when not possible, be transparent about what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re going to do about it.
- Keep messaging clear. Separate messages focused on well-being from those focused on substantive work. A message that addresses both runs the risk of being perceived as insincere.
- Be other-centric. “How are you” is better than “I care about you,” because it focuses on the recipient of the message, not the sender. Try to remember that each person is adapting to the workplace changes in his or her own way and at his or her own pace.
- Be open and honest. Share your own experience. Doing so can help to create a sense of psychological safety, which in turn opens the door for others to talk about their experiences.
- In addition to individual leadership skills, training may be necessary to help legal department leaders reimagine team dynamics for the extended virtual work environment
Tax and immigration considerations
1. Common challenges:
- Workers who normally work in the office may incur tax consequences as a result of working in another geography, whether they are at home or stranded or quarantined in another location, if that alternate location is in a tax jurisdiction that is different from that of their office.
- Where employee furloughs or separations are expected, consider the implications for those employees who hold visas. In the case of separations, affected employees may be delayed in leaving the country in a timely manner as required by applicable immigration law because of travel restrictions in the United States or abroad, and furloughs may not be allowed.
- Know where your employees are physically located. Maintain records for days worked from any location that is not the office, and check state and international tax rules and guidance to determine any potential tax ramifications.
- Understand the current state of immigration law to inform decision-making related to employee furloughs and terminations without discriminating.