Q: The legal team members I supervise, most of whom are working from home due to the global pandemic, say that they would like to continue this arrangement once our office location reopens. Any suggestions for allowing more flexible schedules and remote work in the months ahead?
A: Even before COVID-19, there was an increase in the number of legal professionals who were working remotely. A Robert Half survey conducted before the pandemic illustrated this growing trend: 56% of managers said they’d increased remote work opportunities for their staff over the past three years.
And with the vast numbers of legal professionals working successfully from home during the pandemic, it’s likely to remain a permanent practice. In fact, 74% of workers polled in a more recent Robert Half survey said they want to work remotely more frequently after the pandemic.
Eventually, it’s likely that both law firms and corporate legal departments will be managing a mix of on-site and remote employees. Here are a few tips for getting it right.
- Check your tech
Thanks to mainstream file sharing platforms as well as cloud-based legal management applications, it’s never been easier for legal professionals to collaborate remotely. But easy doesn’t mean foolproof. Make sure you have simple-to-follow protocols for file sharing, so that everyone knows who can access what, and where.
A “back to basics” approach works for cybersecurity too. Everyone worries about getting hacked, but remote workers also can compromise security by leaving their laptops unattended.
- Set clear expectations
Let your employees know you expect the same level of work they would provide if they were in the office — deadlines and client service standards should remain consistent. But be flexible, too. If employees think they can be more productive working outside traditional office hours, listen to their needs.
- Encourage communication
When team members are working remotely, communication is even more important than usual. Check in on remote workers regularly, but don’t micromanage. Be sure to offer not just audio or conference lines but videoconferencing options for staff meetings — and schedule some non-work-related virtual meetings to allow on-site and remote team members to catch up with one other in a relaxed way.
As we’re all learning, remote working presents plenty of challenges — but plenty of opportunities too. If implemented in a transparent and efficient way, it can improve employees’ job satisfaction, productivity and work-life balance.
Robert Half Legal is a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.