COVID has been with the world for around a year now, which means “new norms” have essentially crystalized. One such trend that has become common-place around the world in the pandemic, is remote working. Working from home is not a new concept, by any means, but it has never been so normalized as it currently is; with an estimated 1 in 4 Americans being expected to work remotely in 2021.
Back in March, when the pandemic was in its beginning stages, I wrote an article on how flexible lawyers can stay “sane” in their home offices. After over 9 months of distance-working, I’ve gleaned a few more pointers (4 to be exact) on the best practices for optimizing your remote working experience.
1. Cultivate a positive remote experience for clients
With everything so virtualized in remote working, how does one ensure that the digital “office” clients step into is “positive”? Does that entail setting up a pretty Zoom background? Well, not exactly.
In order to streamline the efficiency of remote work, it’s important to keep the client in mind. A way to do this is by offering a variety of communication mediums; video conferencing options (via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype), phone call options (via WhatsApp, or Viber), etc. Communicating via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone services, like WhatsApp, Viber, Vonage, Corvum, and Jive also make it much easier to ensure no extra costs are incurred over international phone calls, if they need to be made. The convenience of using a VoIP service further consolidates your work-tools to the cloud, enabling you to speak with clients and team mates via your computer, or any device with the same VoIP service downloaded.
By investing in a CRM (Client Relationship Management) tool, you are going one step further to streamline client relations. A CRM tool like Salesforce or Clio Grow can help keep client information handy, and organizes the process of new client onboarding.
2. Communication is key
At this point in time, it isn’t just flexible lawyers who are practicing remote working, but clients, and whole firms as well. Virtual communication can be just as efficient as in-person methods, but the approach must be different. Communicate which hours you will be available, and which time zone you’ll reside in.
Try to set video meetings as far in advance as possible, and send links/digital invites as soon as a time for the meeting is allocated. With Zoom video conferencing for instance, it’s easy to schedule meeting weeks in advance, and send these scheduled conference invites to clients/co-workers in the form of a URL. Google Calendar invites are also efficient ways to ensure you, as well as your clients, are staying organized.
With the surplus of emails that we all receive nowadays with distance working, it’s important that reminders are also sent out, especially the day before a scheduled meeting. In this reminder, the link to the virtual meeting should be included, as well as a brief breakdown of what will be discussed, and when the meeting will be held/how long it will take. Finally, as far as virtual meetings go; be mindful of people’s time. It’s easy to lose track of time on a virtual call, so have an agenda handy and stay mindful of the meeting’s length.
3. Be ritualistic
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in your home office. It may be hard to solidify a new working routine in an environment that simply doesn’t feel like a workspace. So create new routines that work with the home office you have available.
Dress for the work day, and create a virtual to-do list to keep track of your daily tasks. Tim Jones for instance, the CEO of Precision Nutrition, an online nutrition and healthy lifestyle coaching and certification company, applies the ROWE mindset. ROWE stands for “Results-Only Work Environment”, and it speaks to the notion that by focusing on goals and metrics rather than how much time is in a work day, your work-flow and productivity is bolstered. By being ritualistic with the ROWE mindset, and keeping a virtual list of goals/tasks for each day, as well as broader goals for the client, even a home-office will turn into an ideal space for boosted productivity.
4. Make security a priority
Most people have no idea how vulnerable they are to having their privacy (as well as their client’s privacy) breached if security and encryption aren’t made a top priority–especially if you’re working remotely. As a lawyer, it’s also imperative that you uphold your duty to keep client information confidential.
Luckily, plenty of options exist that offer up protection and encryption. Some highly secure and encrypted video conferencing options include Legaler or Jive. Additionally, for document sharing and other communication tools, a secure client portal like Clio Connect is a great option. Dropbox is another great example of an encrypted document storing tool that promises your files are transferred through secure servers.