As legal and compliance leaders arrange for their organizations to return to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 55% of general counsel feel least prepared to address employee safety decisions, according to a poll by Gartner, Inc. An April 27, 2020 Gartner poll of 95 legal leaders examined what standards must be in place for employees to return to the workplace.
“Most organizations aren’t completely ready to return to the workplace right now,” said Vidhya Balasubramanian, managing vice president in the Gartner Legal and Compliance practice. “However, legal leaders are developing return to workplace standards and protocols that will enable employees to safely return to work and also comply with any local requirements and public health considerations.”
Gartner experts say that legal and compliance leaders should focus on three main aspects of returning to work: Monitoring developments for when to return to the workplace; developing new work standards that will ensure employee safety and compliance with local mandates; and working with business leaders to develop new onsite safety measures that will protect employee health and privacy.
“As local mandates regarding lockdowns and essential business vary significantly, legal and compliance leaders are faced with tough decisions in balancing employee health and safety considerations, local restrictions, and pressures to return to the workplace,” said Ms. Balasubramanian.
Many of these leaders are attempting to navigate variations in international, national, state and local mandates and requirements, while:
- Streamlining compliance by applying the most stringent guidance across operations.
- Working directly with regional VPs or other local “boots on the ground” to track evolving requirements, and quickly communicate changes, to take a localized approach when necessary.
- Planning for the possibility of a second wave of infections.
Developing a Return to Workplace Playbooks
In the April 27 Gartner poll, 95% of legal leaders said that social or physical distancing measures must be put in place before allowing any return to work. Many are preparing a “return to workplace” playbook which includes protecting employees, establishing social or physical distancing requirements, providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and screening for symptoms (see Figure 1).