Law360 (April 9, 2020, 11:06 AM EDT) --
Today's perspective comes from Boston-based Joshua M. Davis, an employment lawyer and litigator at Goulston & Storrs PC.
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
Lots of questions from employers trying to balance extraordinary financial pressure and stress with their commitment to their employees. The questions from employers fall in three categories.
First, what are the new laws and how do they apply to my circumstances? Second, how can I reduce my workforce (because there is no work to do) and protect my employees' benefits (so they can get care if they need it)? And, third, what do I do in response to news that an employee or customer has tested positive for the virus?
All of which takes place against the backdrop of constantly changing governmental responses to the evolving challenge of this virus. As a consequence, we are reading decrees as they are issued and providing compliance advice to our clients in real time. It is a super-charged time — at the same time that most of us are moving around so much less than we ever have in our lives.
How are you and your family adapting at home?
We are working, exercising, cooking and living in a much more confined space. My oldest son's room (he lives in Colorado) has become my office. One of our younger boys is attending Grinnell College (virtually of course) in the room next door. A bike from the CycleBar where my wife rides is now set up in our living room. And our dog seems constantly stunned that everyone is home.
In addition to the space challenges, we work to titrate the news and to stay in touch with parents we can no longer visit, for fear of infecting them, and kids who are somewhat scattered. Like everyone, we are trying to stay bound together from a safe distance.
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you've witnessed so far?
Maybe this is a betrayal of age, but I am most struck by the utility of Zoom conferences. By holding virtual meetings, and one virtual gathering for drinks, our firm has held onto its fabric even as we have retreated from the office. I know I am not alone in my appreciation for this technology, but I want to note its strength. We similarly use FaceTime to connect with family and it does somehow manage to make this new world (which looks so much the same) feel navigable.
At the same time, the new technology requires us to adopt new communicative styles. I used to host a radio show — and I learned a lot about the attention span that people have when they are at home and are tempted to do something else. With a world limited to video and teleconferences, we all need to learn to front-load our presentations or questions so that we ask for and obtain the answers that we need early in the course of any communication.
We also need to learn techniques to focus attention — shifting backgrounds; using accompanying Power Point slides (think New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo); or by cutting back on lengthy talks in favor of short comments that require response. Our jobs are still about communication, but we need to change the way we do it to match the new medium.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
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