One of the things that Covid-19 has done is force employers to rethink their relationship with flexibility. In short, a change was already coming, and companies now have the chance to implement a new approach to the workplace, put ED&I at the top of the new and improved HR strategies, and have their people are the core of their plans moving forward. We spoke to Perry Zizzi of Dentons on what this new reality means and how companies can adapt and thrive, in an exclusive interview for Workplace Today.
1. How do you see the ‘new normal’ in the workplace? What are some of the steps you are taking to prepare employees for this new reality as they are returning to work?
Perry Zizzi: In some respects, the ‘new normal’ is the ‘old normal’ accelerated. What I mean is that we were already studying how to introduce flexible hours and remote working. The project has gone on fast-forward, and now we see that we can make it work.
Aside from that, there are legally mandated measures we must introduce, such as masks and social distancing. But once the Covid-19 panic subsides, I don’t see these as permanent features of office life.
2. As we are rebuilding the workplace now, how can companies put diversity at the core of their HR strategies? What are some of the things employers can do to make the workplace more inclusive?
Perry Zizzi: Flexible hours and remote working can be a great help for building diversity. In countries (like Romania) where women are still the primary caregivers for children, these policies can bring more women into the workforce and help them to be even more productive by adapting to personalized schedules. In the same way, physically disabled persons will find it easier to work in an increasing array of jobs where physical presence in an office is not required — which is especially important since accessibility is still major problem in Romania.
3. How do you create a work culture where people embrace equality, diversity and inclusion?
Perry Zizzi: Management needs to lead by example. There also needs to be well-developed talent training and real opportunities for advancement. It is not enough that a company has entry-level balance in terms of gender, race, disabled status, sexual orientation and identity. There must be greater balance at the management level. Most companies are still striving to do better in this respect, and there remains a long road ahead.
4. Will flexible working become the norm? How can corporates work around this new reality?
Perry Zizzi: As our devices allow the work day to somewhat insidiously expand, flexible working is not a fringe benefit but a ‘must’. Indeed, many of us were already being ‘flexible’ by answering emails at 11:00 pm or 7:00 am. The concept of ‘working day’ has been quaintly antiquated for some time. The focus has to be on getting work done rather than obsessing over being available during the daytime or in a particular place.
5. How do you care for the mental wellbeing of your employees?
Perry Zizzi: We are the first major law firm to introduce mindfulness training, which helps employees focus more intently on the task at hand and thereby get assignments done more efficiently. During the COVID crisis, we also introduced online resources to connect our people and help them not to feel isolated or disconnected.
6. How will this pandemic change employee engagement? What are some of the things your company has done over the last few months to keep their employees engaged?
Perry Zizzi: We have had more practice group and business development meetings than ever before. I have also set up daily briefings with the office heads of finance, HR, IT and BD. And I have personally phoned employees who seemed less engaged or perhaps lonely, and I have encouraged each practice group head to reach out in the same way to their teams.
It is not enough that a company has entry-level balance in terms of gender, race, disabled status, sexual orientation and identity. There must be greater balance at the management level.
Perry Zizzi is Managing Partner of Dentons in Romania. He is a core member of the M&A team, with particular sector strength in real estate. He has had a quarter century of experience practising law in the emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the US and elsewhere. Perry earned his law degree at Columbia University and his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University.