Now that remote work or hybrid schedules have become a facet of our workplaces, there is a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of remote work. Does the lack of personal contact limit one’s effectiveness when working remotely? Is it harder to get noticed, or promoted, when you work remotely? How is remote work for those who just graduated from law school and joined the legal profession and the seasoned lawyer?
All those questions reveal that some of the possible downsides of remote work are real and need to be managed effectively. However, along with the clouds come many silver linings, so read on.
There is sunshine behind those remote-work clouds; it just takes a slight repositioning to thrive when working remotely. This “thrive all” guide applies to attorneys who are billing time at a law firm as much as those in-house attorneys in corporate legal departments around the country. So, enjoy these remote-work tips that will maximize your time in the cyber-workplace, raise your self-awareness and equip you with strategies for managing your career while working remotely.
Tip #1 – Touch Base . . . Daily
The top problem that can result from remote work is isolation. The legal profession requires a lot of alone-time, whether researching and writing a brief or going through that corporate contract to ensure that you did not miss a clause. These factors can be compounded by a solitary workload when you miss your colleagues or the mental break of catching up on a discussion about the latest Netflix show.
How do you combat the feeling of isolation? Connect with someone every day. There are no rules on who should be your daily contact. It could be the same person every day, like your supervisor or a close colleague, or it could be different colleagues on different days. The key here is to make sure you have someone to chat with about work daily. Indeed, having a simple “check-in” every day can help you stay focused and even help you organize the rest of your day.
Tip #2 – Loop in the Boss regularly
Your supervisor may not be the person for your daily “check-in” call, but you can regularly schedule time with your immediate supervisor. Remote work means you are not in the office and not available for a quick pop-in. So, it would help if you put some effort into keeping your supervisor in the loop on your workload periodically.
Perhaps make a plan with your supervisor so that you can connect once every week or every two weeks. Whichever way you work out your schedules, a regular call with your supervisor will keep you on the top of your supervisor’s mind for further assignments and support the work flowing so you can stay engaged.
Make a point of communicating your successful outcomes with your supervisors and colleagues as appropriate. One way to initiate the conversation may be to solicit feedback or share feedback you have received on an assignment. One approach is to think of feedback as your responsibility to share with your manager.
Tip #3 – Ah . . . The Distractions
You know it. We’ve all done it. Don’t those chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard start to call your name mid-afternoon (or even earlier)? After an hour into work in your home office, don’t you start to feel the pull of a quick social media break? Or, more commonly, do you have a hard time getting into a project because your children are home and (more than a few times) interrupt you because they need your attention?
It’s ok, we’re all human, and we all suffer from the same distractions. How can you cope? Remember, it is tough, if not impossible, to eliminate all distractions. Yet, you can employ some helpful tools to minimize them.
When it comes to our distractions, try the Pomodoro Method – inspired by a simple tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by the Method’s inventor. The Pomodoro Method is simple. Using any timer, give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted time to work on something, then, at the end of the 25 minutes, give yourself a five-minute break. When you are back from the short break, set the timer for 25 minutes again, and repeat.
The Pomodoro Method is beneficial when you struggle to find the motivation to complete a particular task. Knowing that a break is only minutes away will help you stay disciplined and focused.
Concerning distractions from others, you will need to exercise your negotiating skills. Provide an incentive for others in the household to give you a certain amount of uninterrupted time. Use the time productively, but make sure that you hold up your end of the bargain for those allowing you that valuable time.
Tip #4 – Remote Workers Can Get Promotions Too
Many think they will not get quality work or dream projects because they work remotely. If you see a project or an assignment you’re interested in working on or a team you’d like to be part of, ask to be included. Even if the answer is no, you demonstrated initiative and interest. You may be considered for the next opportunity.
Deploy the three tips above; deliver the best work, demonstrate an interest in new projects or assignments, and ask or share feedback with your manager. In fact, by turning your remote work into a positive, you can focus on making sure that you are judged on your results, not on the number of hours you clock.
Tip #5 – Use Tech to Build Your Network
Practicing law remotely will require you to use technology to build your network the same way you would in person. Congratulate your friends and colleagues via email when you see that they have enjoyed success. Share your accomplishments, and be sure to credit your colleagues who played a part in your success. Make a phone call during lunch hours to congratulate or check in with colleagues, craft brief emails acknowledging something of value, participate in professional groups (LinkedIn or otherwise), and regularly keep in touch with your colleagues to create a virtual presence. Volunteer to be on virtual or in-person panels.
There is no doubt that remote work can present some challenges. But, not to worry. There are ways to tackle those challenges. The most important is staying connected with your manager, participating in virtual teams or projects, and looking for ways to communicate with colleagues. To compensate for the lack of physical presence in the workplace, be sure to use technology to connect regularly. As long as you remain present with your colleagues, being remote will not get in the way of success.