3 Keys to Working Remotely
3 Keys to Maintaining Productivity While Working from Home
By now, you have most likely set up your work environment to meet the needs of the new normal caused by COVID-19. But, as each day progresses, the need to maintain your firm’s productivity while working remotely needs to be reassessed with an eye toward how optimal your shift has been — and what might need reconsideration. From our learnings over the last several weeks, we have heard many consistent themes. These themes might help guide you in maintaining business continuity and thriving during an unpredictable time in the legal industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has firms grappling with new workforce challenges. Some of the things we are hearing include these oft-repeated questions:
How can we help our employees get through this together? Will new external disruptions have much impact on our ability to work effectively? Can I ensure business continuity and employee productivity now that my team is remotely working? How can I protect any front-line employees that may still need to come into the workplace?
But the concerns do not end there:
What will be the effect if we have to trim personnel costs? Will we lose our most talented and productive members? How will this shift to a remote workforce impact our future? Can I keep teams engaged and connected throughout the disruption?
From the other end, we hear equally as many concerns from employees:
How can I remain productive while working from home? Will I be as efficient without my printer or fax machine? How can I mask my caller ID when using my personal cell phone? How will I prepare document requests, print them, and send them in the mail? What do I do when my internet connection is not as fast as it is at work? If I have to go to the office, how will my employer protect me?
In order to address many of these concerns and situations, leaders need to continually re-evaluate conditions. Here are 3 keys that we have been suggesting to our clients to help support them through changing conditions regarding the industry and the economy.
The First Key is to Set Expectations
First and foremost, you need to start with an empathetic and understanding approach. Your staff and managers are turning to executives for guidance; lack of leadership can negatively affect how your team responds. The key here is to set expectations early around new needs and routines. For example, if you haven’t already, request that your team start to track their time. Recording time gives leaders peace of mind that the business is functioning and helps set up a consistent method for measurement.
Consider action instead of reaction. Start with clear expectations and keep employees focused on the concept that you are all in this together. Clearly state that your first goal is to protect your employees, followed closely by maintaining business continuity.
Over-communicate, as effective leadership starts with effective communication. Be responsive and clear about policy changes needed during this changing environment. Don’t let your team fill the void with thoughts of doubt.
Be clear that maintaining continuity of work starts with understanding what your team might be lacking to do their jobs effectively; support their desire to be effective and productive. Ask for regular updates. Be more communicative than usual through email, phone, and video messages.
Your firm will likely need to have some core-staff positions on-site, including operational support for mail and phone systems, accounting support for deposits and issuing checks, and — in some cases — attorneys meeting with clients in person. Communicate both the firm’s operational needs and the firm’s commitment to observing safe standards, as well as the need for all staff to support one another and collaborate safely to keep business on track.
The Second Key is to Ensure You Have the Right Tools
Having the right tool is just as important in facilitating employee productivity as measuring your team’s output.
Legal Case Management Software
Consider this your central hub for efficiency. Good case management software saves unnecessary work and ensures that the key work gets done. It allows employees to be accountable for their daily work and identify priorities while bringing structure to their day, and gives managers visibility to make sure that this happens.
With staff being remote, it may be impossible to equip everyone with firm-owned computers. Therefore, you may need to adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. You may face challenges with devices that are not up-to-date in terms of functionality or software, though. That’s why you might consider assessing staff devices — and the anti-virus/malware software available — and perhaps prioritizing the need to supply under-equipped staff with home computers.
Don’t minimize the need for good bandwidth. Strains on your firm’s remote access pipeline will increase dramatically when trying to accommodate a substantial remote workforce. Each remote access user limits the pipeline for others. Without proper bandwidth, your system could come to a standstill and thereby seriously undermine your team’s productivity. While not an ideal solution, consider shift work for certain employees to reduce strains on your bandwidth if necessary.
If you were relying on a landline to a local server-based phone system before COVID-19, then this is likely going to be a potential sore spot for your staff. Forwarding calls to employees’ cell phones is one thing, but requiring personal phones as the outbound number on work calls is an area for serious concern. Leveraging VOIP (Voice Over IP) technology provides greater flexibility and often has many additional advantages over traditional location-based phone systems.
Quarantine has not diminished our natural desire to collaborate with one another. Video conferencing enables your staff to connect with one another as well as clients. This communication can bring peace of mind to clients and reinforce their decision to hire your firm in the first place. Just be aware that not all video conferencing is secure.
In a digital world, are printers still needed? In most cases, they certainly are. Many communication requests of medical records to billing departments, for example, need to be in writing. Relatedly, consider that your staff might not have access to letterhead, postage, or other necessary supplies.
Without the right tools, your staff’s ability to work from home might be greatly compromised.
The Third Key is Consistency
Work Schedules and Workflow
Being flexible is important, but so is maintaining a level of consistency so that staff and clients don’t miss a beat. Productivity flows from consistency in routine. Try to maintain existing work schedules amidst the broader uncertainty. Take the time to optimize and enhance workflows to ensure collaboration and instill accountability.
If resources are tight or if you have had to trim expenses, sharing responsibilities is going to be vital. Thus, maintaining consistency around your processes is critical to not losing track of tasks, documents, follow-ups, outreach, etc.
Just as it is important to maintain consistency in your work schedules and workflow, it is equally important to maintain client communication. This is not the time to cut corners on communications. Your clients need to hear from you more than ever to reassure them that your team is diligently working to resolve their cases.
Communications include everything from how the phone is answered or what is displayed on the caller ID to the use of letterhead in formalized communications. If client intakes are as important for you as they are to most firms, letting calls roll over to answering services or go unanswered could significantly impact your continued success.
Designed by attorneys, legal case management by GrowPath addresses critical success factors and continues to develop new solutions for firms during COVID-19. Here are just a few features GrowPath could provide as part of your pandemic toolkit:
Help your team members be more successful by keeping track of various productivity elements such as calls made, files attached, documents generated, matters created, notes drafted, and more. It’s like shining a light in the dark. Illuminate your individual and team productivity. Discover insights to help further optimize your remote work team.
Document Request Hub
When your resources are tight, centralizing repetitive tasks is critical for properly managing your resources. One example of this is making calls to medical providers for multiple clients at one time. GrowPath’s new Document Request Hub allows your users to do just that.
Remove unnecessary obstacles and centralize your print and mail production. Minimize your staff exposure and risk while strategically centralizing print functionality for the firm, thereby eliminating the need for your firm to equip employees with printers or postage. On-site staff can review, edit, and complete the project, safely and confidentially.
GrowPath offers robust custom reporting tools and dashboards that will help you visualize key data about your workforce so you can make informed decisions. These reports are auto-generated and in real time, so there’s no extra work on your part. Also, the software will automatically alert you to any potential issues with any case or employee.
The state of the industry is changing rapidly. The firms that best manage the challenges of this new environment will emerge in the best position when this crisis recedes. The right approach, combined with the right tools, can make the difference between merely surviving the crisis — and thriving.