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Siskinds LLP partner, Fred Rose, was quoted in The London Free Press in an article discussing local law firms’ plans for returning to the office. Fred mentions Siskinds’ consideration of a hybrid model of working from home and in the office. Read the full article below.

Norman De Bono · The London Free Press · Posted: July 20, 2021

As office workers slowly trickle back, one London law firm sets clear rules

Slowly, the trickle back to the workplace just may be underway in London.

Some businesses say the easing of COVID-19 restrictions may spark a transition to more workers leaving their home offices after 16 months and returning to corporate digs. One downtown law firm is already there – and is clear about work-from-home and vaccination expectations.

McKenzie Lake Lawyers has returned its 150-person workforce to their Fullarton Street office and made it clear work-from-home is not a post-pandemic option.

“We’re fully back to work. There’s no reason now why not to be,” said managing partner Mike Peerless.

Like other businesses, McKenzie Lake sent its workers home in the early spring of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across North America. But it began easing staff back to the workplace when it could, with barriers and safety measures in place.

When vaccines were offered, staff began moving back to the downtown-area headquarters more steadily and now the law firm has 75 per cent double-vaccinated and the balance have had one, with a second appointment booked. That stems any fear over the delta variant hitting the workplace.

“We’re an essential service. We could have been at work through this to service the justice system. All law firms could have been at work,” but they worked from home, Peerless said.

“We took steps early. We started platooning workers,” to the office. “Clients needed to come in to deal with wills and deeds. We were careful.”

McKenzie Lake also “mandated” staff have to be vaccinated. If a worker refused a vaccine, they would likely be looking for another job, he added.

“We can’t have someone who doesn’t participate in health measures that put employees at risk. People talk about rights as if they go in one direction. It’s my right to protect employees and clients,” Peerless said.

It’s likely staff would also be fired if they refuse the return-to-work order, he said. “In our situation we need to be together. We’re more productive.”

But a hard line on return-to-work is unusual. Many businesses have workers returning, slowly, and allowing consideration for a work-from-home option, said Rick Spencer, a realtor with the commercial firm CBRE.

“The experiment worked because it had to, there was no option. Now, we’re hearing enough is enough,” Spencer said.

The return is especially valuable where collaboration is needed on the job, although there are many firms that will allow work-from-home in some form.

“At some architectural firms they believe they need to collaborate. At a large insurance company, more can work from home,” Spencer said of the split that seems to be developing across industries.

“A lot of businesses just don’t know yet.”

The coronavirus continues to be contained locally, with 18 new cases reported over the past three days total and vaccination efforts ongoing. London has also seen pop-up and mobile vaccine clinics open.

Siskinds, the law firm, is also looking forward to a return to the office but is “open” to a work-from-home option, said partner Fred Rose.

“We’re very aware of the COVID guidelines,” Rose said, “and if the guidance is for people to come back, then we will permit everyone to come back. We don’t really know what the impact is of working from home on culture, morale, training. But we’re open to it.”