As we all know by now, the COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things about the legal profession. For many, the requirement of working from home was a cataclysmic shift away from how law firms traditionally operated. Now, some 18 months after remote work began in earnest, many people are finding that they’d like to keep working from home as pandemic restrictions ease up. How can you prove to your firm that you will continue to shine as a remote worker? Here are our top 10 tips:
#1: Stay regular
By now, you’ve figured out that working from home is not some sort of sabbatical or adult recess. Even though you may not have to shower every day or commute to the office, you still have to show up and do the work assigned to you. Conversely, working from home can cause some people to work too much — because the job is now at home, it’s hard to be there and not be working. One of the best ways to avoid either dilemma is to create and adhere to a regular work schedule. Give yourself boundaries for when you’ll start and when you’ll stop working each day. Factor in things like a lunch break or stretching break. Whatever you do, just be consistent.
#2: Be a communication superstar
You’ve probably noticed that some of the partners are a bit panicked about not being able to stop by your office to chat about client matters. In the current state of affairs, some can also get irritable when they can’t reach you by phone on their first attempt. That’s a natural part of this transition as we’re all learning to function in a brand new way. That said, why not take the time to learn how to be an excellent communicator in a remote-work world? Your boss will applaud you for your efforts and you can serve as a role model for other members of your team.
#3: Volunteer to help create a “Work from Home Policy”
We have to believe that at some point, the pandemic will be over for good. When that time comes, many lawyers and other professionals are going to want to continue working from home. If your firm hasn’t implemented one already, why not volunteer to head up a committee on creating a “Law Firm Work from Home Policy”? Your employers are sure to feel easier about continued remote work if they are able to manage expectations with this sort of policy.
#4: Maintain a professional appearance
Let’s face it, some people have completely forgotten about socially acceptable appearances during the pandemic. While working from home may allow the convenience of “sweatpant-chic” work attire, you should strive to dress appropriately for work meetings and especially for online client meetings or court appearances. And, if you’re curious what types of outfits and settings work best for online meetings, there are plenty of guides that will tell you what to wear and where to set up your computer.
#5: Remain a team player and a cheerleader
If you’re like most people, pandemic isolation can be depressing, even if you do see the benefits of working from home. That’s why now, more than ever, it is so important to focus on being a team player and a cheerleader for your team. Not only will your attempts at team unity help you feel more connected, it may also improve your co-workers’ moods and set you apart as someone who is positive and resilient regardless of working conditions.
#6: Embrace technology
Having an entire workforce performing remotely has undoubtedly altered the technology of your firm. Whether you’re adapting to new security measures, learning how to video conference for the first time, or moving your file room to a cloud, the truth is, remote law firm technology is here to stay. Consequently, you’ll do yourself a huge favor by being an early adopter rather than that one team member who refuses to learn anything new.
#7: Be a trustworthy resource
You’ve probably already noticed by now that in a remote-work world, being trustworthy goes a long way. You understand that this whole thing is still relatively new. Therefore, it is more important than ever that you honor your work commitments. Show up for meetings. Meet deadlines. Answer the phone. All of these simple habits may just set you apart from other employees.
#8: If possible, maintain a true home office
Take it from someone who has worked remotely for years, there is great benefit to having a dedicated space in your house set aside for work. Just like your law office, your home workspace should be quiet, comfortable, and have all the resources you need at your fingertips. Might I also suggest that you indulge yourself? Take the time to set up a home office with all the equipment and creature comforts that make you happy. If you’re happy with your home office, you’ll work better. If you’re not, your work will undoubtedly suffer.
#9: Be mindful of ethics
Many people have a tendency to be more casual about, well, everything when working from home. This can’t happen when it comes to your client relationships. Be the person on your team who reminds others that their ethical obligations remain intact and offer suggestions for safeguarding things like client confidentiality and security while you’re all working from home.
#10: Maintain the social benefits of a legal career
One of the greatest things about working at a law firm is the social aspect. Legal professionals work hard and they play hard. As remote work continues, people will start to miss those Friday afternoon happy hours. So, why not organize a remote happy hour for your firm? Not only will it increase morale among co-workers, your efforts are certain to be noticed by your superiors. Added bonus: nobody drives home drunk from a remote happy hour.