For years now, there has been a slow and unsteady movement away from the 9 to 5 (or 8 to 5, 9 to 6, 8 to 7, or on-call-24-hours) workday of a traditional office environment. With the advent of a global pandemic, suddenly remote working is being decreed for entire states by the government. In addition, any company that can continue running remotely (rather than shutting down entirely) is scrambling to make it happen. Fortunately, remote working with the same efficiency as in-office working has been a technological possibility for a long time now. Here are some tips to make sure your company continues running just as well as it did when everyone was crammed into the same physical structure:
The most important task for law firms in this time of crisis is to continue representing and protecting their clients. With remote work, this means ensuring that remote workers understand and are up to the task of protecting client information. If they are using their equipment, they should at the very least have up-to-date virus software and know-how to create encrypted zip files for securely transmitting files.
A better solution would be for the firm to utilize a secure networking option (VPN, Citrix, etc.) that users could work in without ever transferring client data to their devices. Additionally, a secure networking option would enable workers to use the document management or fileservers already set-up (and that they are already used to) without worrying about how to handle remote access into those systems.
If not accessing their work systems virtually, accessing the software necessary to perform their job functions that could be one of the biggest hurdles the suddenly-remote employee may encounter. When it comes to word processing and spreadsheets, there are a variety of options available to simulate the traditional Microsoft Office suite. Furthermore, any Office365 user can either work online or download a copy of the software (the silver-lining to Microsoft's relentless push towards the SaaS model).
One of the oldest criticisms of remote working is that it makes "Swinging By" someone's desk or calling an impromptu meeting impossible. The telecommunication technologies of today have rendered that line obsolete; however, employees still need to know what is available and how to use it. Many firms still have traditional conference call lines for attendees to call-in. However, with the explosion in telephone usage, even the most recognized (and expensive) providers are having trouble guaranteeing users will be able to call in and connect on the first try because the telephone carriers are simply being overwhelmed during peak usage, i.e., during that Monday morning check-in call on every work calendar everywhere.
Nevertheless, there are several free and reasonably priced options for alternatives (e.g., Zoom, GoToMeeting, FreeConferenceCall, Teams, etc.). These services offer screen sharing, video capabilities (for those visual clues lost on phone calls), and most importantly VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) which carries the audio over internet bandwidth completely bypassing the bottlenecks on the wired telephone circuits.
While this may belong under software for companies that already have a PM (Project Management) & workflow solutions in place, those companies that didn't and are now looking at a dispersed workforce need to make a plan now to make sure tasks aren't being lost in the void (with or without software to lean on). One of the downsides to remote work is that out-of-sight can sometimes mean out-of-mind.
Everyone has had that instance where you see a coworker at the other end of the hall and that task you owe them, but had completely forgotten about springs to mind and sends you rushing around the corner. Working remotely, you won't see the coworker you'll just get that "We want to file tonight, can you send me that thing we talked about (four weeks ago)?" email. Therefore, sound project management and workflows will help keep all projects on track and if you implement them during this period of remote work, you may find things running smoother than before.
Many firms grappling with equipping large numbers of workers have relied upon their loaner laptops or tablets to send home with their employees. While this is great, you're never going to reach the same efficiency with a 15" monitor and a trackpad mouse sitting on an IKEA’s dining room chair as you could in your office designed and equipped for efficiency. Given the indefinite duration of the current situation (and the potential that both employees and employers will decide to continue with the new status quo even after the health crisis has passed), some firms shipped home second monitors to supplement home systems; desktop unit, external keyboard, and mouse, moreover, to those with only laptops at home and even office desk chairs in some cases. Employers must make sure that they are equipping their employees to be fully productive when working out of the office.
In short, remote working can work, and work well. There are many reasons to think that while adopted in an emergency, it will remain widespread even afterward. Now is the time to adapt and adopt to doing it the right way. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you set up the training, processes, and technology solutions you need now to overcome the #WFH challenges.