Then came the major disrupter of all life as we knew it — COVID-19. Almost immediately, everyone in the world got a taste of working remotely, or at least of realizing that the world of work could look very different from how we always thought
it had to be.
As the pandemic begins to wind down (fingers crossed!), many companies are still offering some variation of work-from-home opportunities for their workers. Some companies have even taken advantage of a smaller workforce or flexible scheduling and downsized
their physical locations. Once again, I find myself in a somewhat unique situation as my entire law firm has opted to operate fully remotely. At this moment, we have no plans to work from a single brick and mortar location — possibly ever.
There are some downsides to this arrangement. The first that comes to mind for most people is isolation. We are social beings, and there can be creative synergy or mentorship that comes from popping by your officemate’s desk for a quick question
or document review. Many sticky problems can be resolved over a spontaneous lunch with a boss or a peer. Sometimes our homes are not big enough or quiet enough to serve the dual purpose of also functioning as productive workspaces. Furthermore, some
people simply don’t work well unless they get out of their relaxed home space and dress up and go to another place where they are expected to be efficient.
Some of these hurdles have been challenges for us, too. Maybe we’re just lucky that everyone on our team has been willing to find a way to make it work in exchange for the benefits of no commute, more daily flexibility and the enormous cost savings
that can be passed back to employees. Here's how we’ve found ways to handle these unusual circumstances and cut inefficiencies:
We use the Microsoft suite of products that allows for easy chatting, videoconferencing and shared, live document storage. A quick question via Teams is no more intrusive (and often less intrusive) than dropping by someone’s office in person.
“At this moment, we have no plans to work from a single brick and mortar location — possibly ever.”
Less time is wasted starting a Teams meeting than waiting for everyone to gather in one conference room. Plus, getting back to work after the meeting isn’t delayed by a trip past the water cooler. If a key person does happen to be late, the rest of us can continue working while we wait.
We may not get together one-on-one as often as we did when working in the same space, but we have committed to frequent social gatherings, whether virtual or in person. We play games, do volunteer work, chat, have a beer — whatever. I feel I spend more quality time with my coworkers now than I ever have in my past jobs.
Some of our workers have had to be more creative than others when designing a productive workspace in their homes. However, libraries, shared offices and coworking spaces are also options, especially for in-person conferences. Also, there is nothing that says you have to spend your days at home in sweatpants and slippers if you believe you need to dress up to feel professional and productive.
We have rented a UPS box as our mailing address. UPS will also accept packages and hand deliveries on our behalf, and they will send our mail to us as often as we request.
Some mailbox companies will email pictures of incoming mail so customers always know what is sitting in their box. We have keys to access our mailbox at any time, day or night, if there is something that can’t wait for delivery. All important client
mail is scanned, emailed and stored in the appropriate client folders online.
Everyone has the same equipment at home that they would have in an office, except for maybe a printer/scanner. Since we have no hybrid model where some people want to work at home and in an office, we have no need for duplicate equipment in two locations.
We have two administrative employees who have printers and one of those can also write checks, so if something needs to be printed and mailed — say certified mail or with a check — that is emailed to the person who can handle that task. Receipts and document copies are scanned and stored online. One scanned copy can be efficiently filed electronically and accessible to everyone without any paper printing, copying, delivering or filing.
Signatures are all handled through the same e-signature platform that we use with our clients. If we choose, we can outsource most of the physical production that is necessary for litigated matters, preserving our time for more important tasks and usually
costing our clients less than they would pay for one of our employees to do the same work.
The landscape for where most of us can perform our jobs has changed dramatically. For me, working from home is not as exotic as working from Europe, but generally, workers are happier when work fits nicely into the flexible lives they want to live. Businesses
are more profitable when productivity is not affected by things like traffic, weather or commute time. An added bonus is the operating budget is not dented with office space rental or the costs of printing and copying, stocking the company kitchen
and paying utilities.