Should Law Firms Encourage Masks in the Office Despite CDC Guidance?
Jun 14, 2021
"Law firm leaders are going to be judged on how they respond and react to moments like this for the next decade," one attorney said.
As attorneys and staff are returning to the office amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, many companies are implementing proactive and flexible approaches to better navigate the new work environment, such as a hybrid work model whereby most people come into the office just a few days a week.
It comes in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently announced that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or social distance, except when local government or businesses require it. That’s prompted South Florida office managers to ask: What would make employees feel most comfortable?
Kaitlin Kincaid, Senior Managing Director of Keller Augusta — a firm that specializes in commercial real estate — said employers are starting to offer incentives to get people back in the office.
“Flexibility is really a driving point for new hires, as well as bringing people back to the office,” Kincaid said. “I think employers, employees and new hires are weighing other benefits as it relates to flexibility.”
Other incentives employers may offer are more vacation time, shifting work hours and set collaboration days, so people can choose when they’re home or in the office. Kincaid said that will allow for people to have a better worklife balance while also continuing to be productive.
“It’s to be seen how successful it will be, but I think most firms are looking to incorporate flexibility in the new normal,” Kincaid said.
To help employees who are concerned about their health when going back to the office, Kincaid said businesses need to set safety protocols and policies around people’s comfort levels.
“That will have to be something that’s clear,” Kincaid said. “There will need to be policies around not coming to work if you’re sick."
To help employees who are concerned about their health when going back to the office, Kincaid said businesses need to set safety protocols and policies around people’s comfort levels. “That will have to be something that’s clear,” Kincaid said. “There will need to be policies around not coming to work if you’re sick. People are starting to think about structuring their office design, and space.
Etan Mark, a founding partner of Mark Migdal & Hayden, a boutique law firm headquartered in Miami, shared his firm’s strategy for navigating the CDC’s mask guidelines when returning to the office.
“Our rules are: if you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask, Mark said. Mark said. “We have a fairly flexible work policy as far as a physical location that is in the office or at home. People have been coming in and out over the last few months in particular. So far, it’s been working fairly well.”
The hybrid model is believed by many, including Mark, to be long term since employees can still be productive.
“We’re in the service industry, and we have to service our clients,” Mark said. “What’s most important is, can you continue servicing our clients with work as good as or better than you can do in the office? If the answer to that is yes, then I don’t see why people should not be able to continue some type of flexible arrangements.”
Although he likes the hybrid model, Mark said it’s imperative to be in the office at some point as there are many benefits.
“I think it’s important for culture, I think it’s good for collaboration to have people in the office at least sometimes,” Mark said. “For that reason, we don’t have everybody that’s entirely remote. We do try to create opportunities for in-person engagement on a very regular basis.”
For firms or businesses with a mix of employees who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, Mark thinks best practices would be to listen to the needs of others.
“Law firm leaders are going to be judged on how they respond and react to moments like this for the next decade,” Mark said. “I think to introduce rigid policies without taking into account personal issues and preferences I think is a mistake and short-sighted. I think it’s simple and perhaps more easily implemented, but at the end of the day what everyone went through over the past 18 months is deeply personal.”