Lawyers & Telecommuting: 7 Tips for Making the Most of Working Remotely
Telecommuting is a viable – and often attractive – option for professionals in myriad industries, including lawyers. The benefits for law firms can be numerous, including reducing overhead for smaller firms and attracting top recruits looking for flexibility in larger firms. Lawyers who are able to telecommute some of the time, most of the time or even all of the time, have cited multiple benefits to working from home. Some of these include the ability to work when they are at their most productive (early in the morning or very late at night), the opportunity for quiet time needed to think about particularly challenging case issues or preparing for trial, time saved on commutes (which allows for more work to get done), greater levels of autonomy (which helps with attaining work/life balance) and more.
If your law firm offers the option to work remotely, here are seven tips to ensure you’re as productive as possible while out of the office.
- Act as if you’re going into the office
As an attorney, depending upon your practice area, spur of the moment or emergency meetings are par for the course. Do yourself a favor and wake up, shower and get ready as if you’re going into the office. This way, you won’t be caught in sweatpants when a client needs to see you ASAP or you need to Skype into a teleconference.
- Avoid multitasking
One of the most difficult things about working from home is the desire to multitask, particularly for lawyers who never seem to have enough time in the day. It’s tempting to get some of those household chores done while taking care of more administrative tasks, but in order to be fully productive, you need to focus on one thing at a time. Studies show that high-level multitasking is neurologically impossible; it’s like physically being in two places at once. Dedicating yourself to a full, uninterrupted work day will help keep you on track. Think of working remotely the same as being in the office – you wouldn’t drop everything to do a load of laundry, so why should you at home?
- Stick to your office schedule
Continuing the theme of productivity, one of the most common questions asked of people who work from home is, “How do you stay focused?” The answer lies in sticking to a schedule. Wake up at the same time as you do when you go to the office. Begin your work day at the same time (or earlier, if you want to really increase productivity). To ensure maximum efficiency, don’t allow yourself to stray from your planned schedule.
- Continue to attend meetings and networking events
Working remotely can start to feel isolating if you’re not making a point to get out and see colleagues. Allocate time for lunches, networking events or industry association seminars to maintain “face time” with others.
Marketing and business development efforts also shouldn’t go by the wayside. No business development means no new clients, and no new clients means no new business.
And don’t forget the basics:
- Designate a workspace
Working remotely shouldn’t equate to working from the couch with your laptop – set up a clearly defined workspace. This doesn’t have to be an opulent office, but it needs to be separate from the other living spaces in your home. You’ll be more productive in a space that’s designated solely for work.
- Equip your workspace with office essentials
Just like in your regular office, you need to have the right equipment — a comfortable work chair, desk and basic office supplies so that you’re not scrambling when you run out of printer ink and need to print a large document. And of course, reliable internet access is critical.
- Make sure all office programs are on your home computer
Before working from home, make sure you’ve downloaded and installed every program you rely on in the office on your home computer. This can save you countless hours of stress, delays and inconvenience by ensuring programs are set up properly ahead of time. Too, presuming you’ll be using a project management application or document sharing system, make sure you understand how to use everything so you’re not left trying to figure it out at home.
Working from home can be an immensely rewarding and productive experience for a lawyer if you’re prepared for it and continue to manage your time well.