On 12 June, we shared with you an infographic on the results of the membership-wide survey we had conducted from 13 May to 31 May 2020. The purpose of this survey was to obtain feedback from our members on their work-from-home (WFH) experiences and to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted the economic health of law firms in Singapore and the mental well-being of members.
The survey consisted of 31 questions; however, not all questions were mandatory. Seven hundred and seventy-seven respondents (777) participated in the survey. Given that the survey was open for only half a month, the response was encouraging. Moreover, there was a good mix of representatives from all membership categories and from all sizes of law firms – 37 per cent of the respondents were from the junior category, 24 per cent from the middle category and 39 per cent from the senior category. Thirty-five (35) per cent were from small law firms, 38 per cent from medium sized law firms and 27 per cent from large law firms. I would like to thank members who had participated in this survey for sparing the time to do so. The data from the survey has proven to be invaluable and will be guiding Council and Secretariat in formulating new schemes as well as fine-tuning existing ones in order to maximise their benefits to our members.
Most of the respondents found their Work from Home (WFH) experience to be a breeze. Sixty-three (63) per cent transitioned to WFH easily and this is consistent with other surveys undertaken in other industries as well as in other parts of the world. Ninety-nine (99) per cent of our respondents had WFH experience before the circuit breaker kicked in, which probably accounted for the seamless transition for the majority. Respondents liked the fact that WFH saved them time on commuting (83 per cent), allowed them a more flexible schedule (44 per cent), gave them more time for rest (31 per cent) and the benefit of home-cooked meals was certainly not overlooked by some (21 per cent)!
Nevertheless, WFH was not without its challenges. Respondents struggled with blurred boundaries between work and leisure (66 per cent), missed the reduced social interaction with colleagues (48 per cent), found it difficult to carry on business development (36 per cent) and wrestled with technical problems (36 per cent). Apart from offering practical tips and advice for WFH on our COVID-19 Resources webpage, we launched a Tech Support Facilitator scheme on 8 April. Members can sign up to volunteer to assist fellow members who may be facing difficulties using Zoom or other virtual meeting and/or online collaboration tools. So far, 15 volunteers have signed up and we have received 17 requests for assistance. At Secretariat, we ourselves are also considering the feasibility of implementing WFH on a larger scale than was the case before the circuit breaker. We have applied for the Enhanced Work-Life Grant which the government is offering for companies adopting flexible work arrangements beyond the circuit breaker period. This grant is also available to most law firms so do check it out.
It was heartening to note that law firm management largely recognised that new measures had to be introduced to support WFH. Such measures included redesigning processes and workflows (44 per cent), purchasing and deploying additional hardware (38 per cent) and/or software (37 per cent) and setting up remote IT support (35 per cent). Government support is available in certain instances for the purchase of both hardware and software and you can find out more about such support at our Legal Productivity and Innovation microsite here. Members may wish to note that the maximum funding support level for the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) has been increased from 70 per cent to 80 per cent from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020. This increase in funding support is also applicable to all Baseline Category Solutions under Tech-celerate for Law. Online Collaboration Tools (such as Microsoft 365 packages) and Virtual Meeting Solutions (such as Zoom and Webex) under PSG are now available to law practices, with up to 80 per cent funding support on these solutions. From time to time, we may also partner with vendors to offer members special discounts on tech packages.
Seven (7) per cent reported that their firms had implemented new cybersecurity measures in response to the WFH requirement during the circuit breaker. This could be because such measures were already well in place beforehand for most law firms but in any case, we will continue to raise awareness of our Cybersecurity Guide through CPD webinars and outreach events and collect feedback on pain points faced by law firms in implementing cybersecurity best practices.
In my next message, I shall share the survey responses regarding the impact COVID-19 has had on the economic health of our law practices as well as the mental well-being of our members. Both are issues that the Law Society regards very seriously and in the case of the latter, we have put various support schemes in place to meet our members’ needs. If there are issues weighing you down, be they COVID-19 consequences, your job, career or personal issues, please seek help professionally or personally. You may wish to avail yourself of our Members’ Assistance & Care Helpline (MACH) 6530 0213. This is a members-only confidential helpline manned by our friendly Secretariat staff who will refer members to counsellors or mentors as appropriate. Professional counselling is also available to our members as part of our LawCare scheme, a confidential counselling programme jointly administered with the Counselling and Care Centre (CCC). Members who wish to make an appointment may call the CCC directly at 6536 6366.