How to Incorporate Remote Work Into Your Law Firm’s Operations

When COVID-19 swept across the U.S., law firms were forced into a new way of working. As challenging as managing a fully remote work environment was for these firms, it also provided an opportunity to become more efficient.

Creating an environment that accommodates remote workers is increasingly important for all businesses, including law firms. Whether you’re simply preparing for unforeseen circumstances (like a pandemic) or expanding your team by bringing in remote workers, there are several strategies that can make your life easier.

Facilitating remote work isn’t a set-and-forget process. You can and should make adjustments to your approach. We have some tips to help you create a productive and collaborative environment for remote employees.

Why Some Law Firm Employees Work Remote

Even if everyone at your firm doesn’t work from home all the time, you might consider a rolling system where people work from home on a schedule. This is exactly what happened as businesses re-opened during the COVID-19 outbreak.

At some firms, one person from each department rotated the days of the week they went into the office. This method offers flexibility and ensures the safety of those working on location.

The Benefits of Remote Work for Law Firms

By including remote workers into your firm’s operations even after the pandemic is over, you’ll notice some benefits. These include:

  • More space available in the office
  • Less money spent on work supplies
  • The ability to hire viable candidates regardless of their location
  • The potential for reduced turnover
  • An added job perk for employees
  • Improved productivity, especially for workers who live far from the office

Managing remote workers also gives you the opportunity to determine which members of your team thrive in work-from-home roles. If you identify productivity metrics for each position, then you can track those metrics and compare them for workers at the office and at home.

If you see a positive variance for a few team members, then congratulations: you have identified a self-motivated employee.

On the other hand, if you see a negative variance in a few workers, then you have identified employees who are potentially struggling in a remote environment. These employees might be better suited for office work, and they might need more assistance when working from home.

Provide Tools to Employees as Needed

Some team members might be veterans working remotely, and they’re likely equipped with everything they need to do their jobs. For newly remote workers, provide any equipment or software they’ll need to do their work away from the office.

If training or onboarding is necessary, schedule meetings to go over how to use the tools you’ve provided. Follow up with your workers to ensure they are comfortable with the technology and workflow.

Set Up Channels of Communication

You’ll need to be able to quickly connect with remote workers. Though you’ve likely already set up everyone’s email accounts and you have phone numbers for employees, sometimes an instant messaging system will be more efficient.

There are several available systems to choose from. Some are paid, and some are free, and each provides different benefits. Determine which one works best for your firm. A few of the biggest names in the work chat business include:

  • Slack
  • Facebook Workplace
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Chat

Schedule Ongoing Team Check-Ins

Team meetings are essential for reviewing the status of ongoing cases, setting expectations, and encouraging collaboration among team members. If some or all of your employees are working remotely, these check-ins are even more important.

Regularly scheduled meetings remind everyone on your staff that they’re part of a collective and that each team member plays a role in the success of the firm. When you have in-person meetings with your office staff, always include remote workers via telecommunication.

Foster Connections Through One-On-One Meetings

Though group meetings remind employees of their importance on a team, one-on-one meetings provide a more personal connection. If you manage one or more direct reports, take these one-on-one interactions seriously.

In a face-to-face meeting, even one that takes place over video chat, you can engage your employee on a deeper level. This is your opportunity to listen to your workers. Ask them for candid input about the firm’s operations and how they feel about remote work. Give them feedback to improve their work.

These interactions are crucial to making team members feel more involved in the firm and projects. Do your best to avoid canceling one-on-one meetings to maintain a consistent line of communication with team members.

Encourage Use of Video Chat

One of the biggest obstacles facing remote workers is the lack of non-verbal cues. In a group meeting, team members are more likely to be fully engaged. However, without a visual representation, the speaker will feel like they’re just talking into the void.

When meetings take place over video rather than just conference call, each team member has a visual presence and interactions feel more engaged and authentic. Knowing they’ll be seen by their team members also encourages participants to come to meetings prepared and to stay involved throughout the entire sessions.

Praise Accomplishments of Team Members

When you collaborate with your firm’s team members in person, you have endless opportunities to thank and encourage them. Remote work doesn’t always lend itself to expressing gratitude. So, it’s incumbent on you to make the effort.

If a team member does something helpful, send them a quick message thanking them for their work. Use every chance you can to praise top-performing employees so they’ll know that their efforts are appreciated.

Learn to Recognize Signs of Stress, Fatigue, and Detachment

Working in a law firm can be stressful, and when clear boundaries about office hours and expectations aren’t established, a remote staff member’s job can feel like it never ends. When your staff burns out, your entire firm will suffer.

If an employee begins to struggle to meet deadlines or shows signs of detachment or stress, connect with them to find out how you can help. In some cases, you might need to mandate a day off. In others, simply communicating about and working to resolve problems will be enough to re-engage a team member.

Avoid Correspondence Outside of Office Hours

A late-night or weekend email is sometimes unavoidable, but they should be infrequent and reserved for special circumstances. Because “work hours” become blurry for remote workers, it’s vital you give your employees space and time to rest and recharge.

When employees have the opportunity to disconnect, they’ll be more efficient and engaged when they’re on the clock. So, before you hit send on that after-hours email, ask yourself whether it can wait until the next day.

Find Opportunities to Socialize

Working in an office gives many chances to connect with co-workers. Remote work can leave staff members feeling isolated. You want to see your teammates as three-dimensional people with their own personal lives, ambitions, and interests. The best way to do this is to socialize outside of work.

Set up channels of communication with your staff that have nothing to do with work. This will be the equivalent of water cooler talk. Schedule happy hour meetings with remote workers and avoid work-related conversations at these events.

Backdocket Makes Remote Collaboration Simple

When it comes to the technical details of working remotely, having the right software can make a big difference in your firm’s productivity and success.

Backdocket is useful for both in-office and remote collaboration. Through centralized information, intuitive dashboards, and a host of other tools, teammates can easily tackle tasks with minimal back-and-forth communication, whether they’re working at their desks or from their kitchen tables.

Whether your team is completely or partially remote, we believe our practice management system will save you time and stress. We’d love to have the chance to show you how it works. Contact backdocket today to schedule a free demonstration.

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