Digital Management in a Pandemic

COVID-19 crisis a catalyst for change

Digital Management in a Pandemic

In March of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkSafeBC rapidly transitioned more than 2,500 employees from working in-office to working remotely. This transition included the Board’s litigation team.

WorkSafeBC relies heavily on a direct relationship between a manager and a team of legal officers to foster accountability and track progress. When the pandemic hit, the litigation team was thrust into an online working environment in which that relationship was more challenging to maintain. The only solution was to figure out how to transition to digital practice and people-management strategies as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Two key strategies were important in making this digital transition for WorkSafeBC’s litigation team: cultivating regular and productive digital communication, and making a pronounced shift toward technology-based management tools.

The biggest hurdle was sustaining engagement. While many tools are available for communication (such as online chat, video calls, or even phone calls), they are not as natural to lawyers as walking into someone’s office for a chat. For WorkSafeBC, encouraging frequent, informal use of these tools was key to developing good digital-communication habits in general.

WorkSafeBC’s litigation team keeps an online chat open at all times that is available for any and all discussions. Because this platform feels social and fun, it has become the central channel of communication for the litigation team, where questions are asked and answered, and successes are shared — along with the occasional GIF. In fact, because this interaction always includes the entire group, it is arguably more effective at fostering collaboration than dropping by a team member’s office.

The move to working from home was also an urgent catalyst for WorkSafeBC’s transition to digital practice management. Because of the legal officers’ lack of visibility to management, obtaining trackable file information became more important. As a result, WorkSafeBC mined the capabilities of its existing software to ensure that key information was being consistently recorded and tracked.

The expanded use of WorkSafeBC’s practice-management software has meant detailed reporting metrics can now be provided on a near-live basis, both for internal tracking purposes and for external reporting. This digital transition was in progress prior to the pandemic, but the need to move quickly has driven it much farther and faster than planned.

Ultimately, instead of the feared decline in productivity over 2020, the litigation team has had the most productive year on record, and job satisfaction among the legal officers has remained steady — although they do note that they still miss the office drop-by. While the transition to remote working and digital tools certainly cannot be credited with that success, it did not stand in the way.

While COVID-19 presented immediate challenges that had to be overcome, it also created opportunities for change and growth. For WorkSafeBC, it has driven better engagement in digital communication and a faster and more effective transition to digital practice management. It can be easy to look back at 2020 and see only its struggles, but undoubtedly most large organizations have taken similarly significant steps forward. WorkSafeBC’s litigation team represents a narrow example of how crisis can catalyze positive change. As we pause and reflect on 2020, we can all look forward to learning many more successful strategies to take forward with us into this new digital age of practice.