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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

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For over three years ACC Australia member Sylvia Hands, Senior Legal Counsel at Medibank has managed a flexible and agile team. In this interview Sylvia shares how her team has worked remotely through this pandemic and how they have maintained productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

You have been managing a remote, agile team for three years now, can you please share a little more about your team’s structure and the secret to managing this type of team? I lead part of the legal team that supports the Customer & Portfolio division at Medibank. This includes advising on consumer-facing collateral for a wide range of business areas such as Sales and Marketing, Product, Member Health, Digital and Overseas.  Over the past few years the team has worked flexibly, including flexing up and down from full time to part time as and when my team members’ circumstances change.  I’ve always been completely supportive of the team working how, when and where it suits them – whether that’s earlier or later start and end times, working from home, taking time off for study or carer’s responsibilities. 


Did Medibank already have processes and procedures in place that enable staff to work remotely for an extended period or have you realised there were a few components missing? Medibank was extremely well set up with the policies and IT infrastructure needed to transition to working from home full-time.  There have been almost no disruptions in my team and we have found the transition to be seamless. 


Knowing your team could be working remotely for an extended period, what protocols (if any) are in place to ensure the wellbeing of your team?  As soon as we moved to working from home full-time I set up regular check-ins with the team to ensure that we didn’t lose regular contact; both to ensure the team felt supported by each other and to maintain the social aspects that we all enjoy so much.  The first seven weeks were particularly challenging as our workloads had increased, but that meant it was even more important for me to ensure I was having regular check-ins with the team as well as always being available for one-on-one conversations.  


Medibank is known for its fun and collaborative workplace. How are you ensuring this employee culture stays alive and well? The wider team has been fantastic at organising Friday afternoon Zoom catch-ups, trivia and also fun social committee activities to ensure we stay engaged and also that we get to know newcomers to the team.


What worries you about not being part of an office community for an extended period of time?  I don’t have any significant concerns as I think our team has been able to focus on the positives of the situation and we are all enjoying a reduced commute time, greater flexibility and greater time to focus on our health and wellbeing. I think that many workplaces will realise some of the benefits of a workforce that is able to work efficiently from home on a regular basis, both for its people and for the organisation. 


Which parts of your role have you found difficult to do remotely? Coffee catch ups!  I really enjoy socialising with my colleagues both within and outside of Medibank, so that’s been the most difficult part.  Having said that, in some ways I have found that the business has become more collaborative which is a great testament to the culture at Medibank. 


What is one tip to share that you’ve learned about managing a remote team through the first couple of weeks of this crisis?  Over-communicate and increase the frequency of your team and one-on-one catch-ups.  Even if things are increasingly busy, it is vital to make yourself available to your team.  This has made a huge difference to our team to ensure our sense of community and team support was not diluted given that we weren’t physically in the office. 



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