With more and more lawyers being forced to work from home, here are some tips to make sure you’re doing it the right way!
Many law firms across the country are putting an extra emphasis on working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak. If you’ve never worked from home, figuring out how to do it well can be a challenge.
Many lawyers operate using a Virtual Law Office (VLO) for years, in fact, some of the most successful members of Law Firm Suites’ community use a virtual office while working from home, and have been for many years. This is very common in New York City but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, lawyers across the nation are having to adapt as well.
For those new to remote working, we wanted to share some tips we’ve learned from lawyers in our community on how we make it work. Take a look for yourself, soak up the advice and start to improve your law firm’s remote working techniques. If you have tips to add, please share in the comments below!
Take Scheduled Breaks
Your calendar may be full of tasks, calls, meetings with clients, court appearances, and a million other things, but it also should include scheduled break periods.
Here’s an easy break, set a time for lunch and don’t skip it! Set times in your schedule to unplug and split your day up. Otherwise, your day will get away from you (along with your opportunities to recharge). Try setting an alarm to get up and stretch every hour or so. Use a standing desk, which at home may mean perching your laptop on top of a bookshelf, but if that helps you be more productive and healthy then why not?
Breaking up the day and moving your body enables you to refresh and can increase your productivity when you return to your work. If the weather is nice, try working outside or taking calls while taking a walk through your neighborhood.
Your Time is Precious
We are all human and it is very easy to get distracted when working from home. It’s easy to put work aside and instead tackle that pile of laundry or get lost in that new Netflix show you’ve heard about.
But at the same time, the opposite is also true. When working from home it is much harder to separate work time from home time. If you’re deep into whatever task you’re working on, it is very easy to get distracted and next thing you know it’s 8:30 PM and you’re still grinding. Set “in office” hours and communicate these with your colleagues, employee’s and family.
Designate a Workspace
Where you work makes a huge difference.
It will be much easier to focus if you’re able to keep all of your work confined to a desk in its own room or area within your home.
If you don’t have a spouse or children to distract you at home, then having a workspace in an area like your living room can be an option. If you live with other people you might need to work in a space where you can close the doors, tune everyone out and make sure there are minimal distractions.
You may also want to pay attention to ergonomics. Use the most comfortable chair you can with back support. Also, consider investing in a hands-free headset. At the very least, pop in earbuds for long phone calls. You will quickly learn that sitting in a wooden chair balancing a landline or small cellphone between my chin and shoulder is not going to make your workday any more productive or enjoyable.
When Should Your Team Reach Out?
This tip will apply mostly to law firms with several employees, but solos can take this advice and apply it to their vendors or virtual assistants where applicable. Do you want people to check in with you first thing in the morning or in the afternoon? Send a daily or weekly update on what they’ve been working on? The more direction and boundaries you provide to your team members, the better off everyone will be. And as a result, everyone will be on the same page and will keep things from getting out of control.
Use the Cloud to Share Documents
If you don’t already, now would be a good time to consider Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox to share files. Do everything you can to make work documents accessible no matter where you or your team members are located. Don’t scatter work and team files across your email, legal pads and your personal hard drive. Otherwise, who knows when you might not be able to access or share those documents next.
Dress Like You’re Going Into the Office
Your morning prep routine plays a large role in determining your mindset for the day. It’s tempting, but don’t make a habit of calling clients or referral sources in bed with your pajamas still on. That is a slippery slope towards the land of poor productivity. You’ll find you’re more productive when you dress for the day, brush your teeth and do everything else that makes up your morning routine. Now we’re not saying put on a suit, but the act of getting dressed will help you get into work mode and out of lounge mode.
Take Time for Casual Conversations
Working from home is going to dramatically impact your ability to casually chat with your referral sources. When you’re home on your couch that means you won’t be bumping into them in the halls, elevator or parking garages. You won’t have the same opportunity for chit-chat and this could affect the likelihood of them referring new cases to you as well, thus it’s very important to try to keep up with these people when possible.
Make time every day to text with colleagues, become friends with them on social media, share stories, ask how people are doing and just continue to be friendly. If nothing else, when this virus passes and we begin to resume our normal lives, you will have created a strong connection with your peers, setting your firm up for success in the future.