The lockdown imposed by the pandemic has significantly accelerated digitalization worldwide. The sudden urge for seamless communication and access to the enterprise information system has sped up existing digitalization processes. This made a very welcome and necessary technology boost possible. Other industries, such as the legal industry, have too long ignored what has abruptly become a necessity: digital transformation.
Like other fundamental innovations, digital transformation has both, risk and opportunity.
The opportunity of increased digitalization
Now that adaptation is in progress and disruption is close to inevitable, many advantages and opportunities of digitalized workflows have become noticeable:
- Cloud-based solutions grant secure and immediate access to documents and files, regardless of the user’s location. Rather than needing to conduct time-consuming searches through physical archives, today’s legal counsels are one mouse click away from searching through hundreds and thousands of files – right from their home office desk.
- Interactive real-time communication enables even international and cross-functional teams to collaborate on shared matters and carry out seamless workflows by sharing files, deadlines and knowledge.
- Data-driven decision making in the form of data accumulation or analytical reports helps organizations to reduce risk by increasing predictability, especially during uncertain times such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Resulting from these opportunities, the home office format has evolved from a primary necessity into an attractive alternative for many employees with continued attractiveness even after Corona. Among other advantages, home office allows for flexible working hours, a familiar and comfortable setting and time savings through spared commute.
The risk to corporate health
Having these upsides in mind, accelerated digitalization also confronts corporates with several challenges, especially regarding the health and wellbeing of their employees. Although many companies already started investing in corporate health initiatives before Covid-19 and the concomitant digitalization, the need to adapt the relevant measures accordingly and to make their consistent implementation a priority has increased drastically.
A few of the most significant challenges for workers resulting from accelerated digitalization are:
- Increased stress levels are the cumulative result of a number of factors including home office-induced overtime, constant availability and family management such as home-schooling or the lack of quiet workspace. A high level of chronic stress can lead to headaches, fatigue, insomnia, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, an unstable immune system and many more symptoms.
- The lack of social interaction has become a major factor during the Covid-19 pandemic, but can be expected to stay relevant with home office making most non-work-related interaction redundant.
- Since many employees are abruptly facing significant changes in their work processes, anxiety has become a major issue, especially among more experienced workers. The question of whether one will be able to adapt to these changes and keep up with technological developments leaves many with tension and possibly even existential fear.
- Back pain is one of the most common health issues among office workers – but not the only one. With employees moving into a home office environment, ergonomic workspaces are more difficult to implement than before.
- Physical fitness, which has been in danger for as long as there have been desk-jobs, is now becoming especially important with accelerated digitalization. If most desk work can in future be done by simply operating a computer from home, taking a few steps to tell your colleague about the latest news or riding the bike to work becomes obsolete. Integrating physical activities into daily routines requires active attention – more than ever before.
How corporate health initiatives can help
With these challenges arising, the need for corporate health initiatives that aid employees in staying physically and mentally healthy is more pressing than ever before. Luckily, there are many initiatives that employers can and/or should make use of:
- Seminars and/or counselling for stress management can not only guide those suffering from elevated stress levels but also strengthen the social acceptance and support from others while preventing increased stress levels in the first place.
- Mental relaxation measures such as guided meditation groups or designated relaxation areas can strengthen social bonds and recharge social batteries at the same time. Relaxation areas in particular can help overcome the problem that many employees feel the increased need for “off-time”.
- Mental health app collaborations are an easy and effective way to support employees in gaining more awareness and peace of mind. Calm, Headspace or Mood Mission are only a few of many examples for mental health apps that can not only prevent stress but also increase concentration and therefore work efficiency.
- Next to mental health, an easy way to support employee health is to provide ergonomic workspaces for office & home office workers.
- Collaborations with (local) fitness centres can lower the threshold for membership and therefore support those willing to keep themselves physically fit. Aside from this, collaborations with fitness centres are a major pull factor for talent and can help increase employee satisfaction. A collaboration can also be established with fitness apps for training, running, yoga etc.
- Sporting events such as a company running group, or an annual (half-)marathon can motivate employees and strengthen social relationships at the same time.
That’s why LECARE in partnership with the Liquid Legal Institute reached out to the EUPD, to establish a Corporate Health Award for Legal. This award intends to recognize firms in the legal market that have taken an outstanding approach in addressing the corporate health issue topic.
In a second phase later this year, we are going to honour those legal departments that have recognized and implemented the so-called Lawyer Wellbeing challenge in a
distinctive way. The overarching goal being to spotlight great project and ideas that can serve as inspiration for others.