The COVID-19 pandemic threw the business world into a tailspin, with stay-at-home orders and remote work emerging as the best or only option for the most legal practices. Firms not previously prepared for this teleworking transition were forced into a “learn as you go” mentality.
It’s been said that your “people” are one of your best assets as a business and law firm owner. So how do you ensure that you encourage and support your staff during these challenging times—without face-to-face interaction—so that they, in turn, will continue to do their best work for your law firm?
Here are 4 ways to keep things positive and productive:
- Communicate frequently
Making the leap to working remotely, especially when the situation is not voluntary, can feel very isolating for some. Missing is the constant “buzz” of an office, “direct” supervision, friendly chatter in the halls and in-person meetings.
By keeping in frequent communication with your employees, you’ll help to ease their minds and also demonstrate that work can and will continue as usual, to the extent possible. Setting that precedent upfront can help make things easier as time goes on and remote work continues to be the norm.
The good news is that communicating virtually has become so mainstream that there are a variety of options at your fingertips. Video calling/conferencing is a great way to enhance the connection to your team, since you can speak “face-to-face” in the virtual sense and screenshare to go over important documents or spreadsheets together. Collaboration tools like Google Drive and Dropbox can assist in organizing shared documents and ensure they’re readily available to everyone that needs to access them.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that given the unprecedented circumstances, communication with your team does not always have to be formal. Yes, client and vendor communications should always be kept professional, but when touching base with your team so regularly and via virtual means, easing up on the formality and speaking to each other like you would in person can be permissible. Even utilizing tools like the “chat” function in your email platform can help keep things more personable and cut down on the time it takes to compose a formal email.
- Keep expectations and department goals at the forefront
Being sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for and the deadline for those tasks is imperative all the time, but now it is even more important because you aren’t in a communal office setting.
Clearly laying out what is expected from each person or department will keep everyone on track. In addition, informing your team how their portion of a project will fit into the bigger picture and letting them know who else will be relying on their work can provide a sense of urgency, visibility and ownership to the work being done, even if it’s tough to see who’s involved and how it all comes together when relegated to the stay-at-home environment.
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Implementing periodic full staff meetings can be a great way to run through the status of a given project, providing you the ability to review each component and allowing each individual team member to share the progress they’ve made. This gives both clarity to the entire team and creates a sense of accountability and accomplishment for each person involved.
- Recognize those who go above and beyond
It’s easy to do the minimum when no one’s watching. Be sure to exemplify employees that are doing their part and striving for excellence, regardless of the situation. This can provide motivation for others to do the same.
On a similar note, small achievements should be given accolades as well. Sometimes everyone needs a “pat on the back,” albeit virtually during this current situation. Knowing that although work isn’t being showcased in a law firm-wide meeting, it’s still appreciated and recognized, can provide the fuel your staff needs to continue to move forward and take on new initiatives.
- Don’t let your company culture fall by the wayside
Culture can be a driving force behind what makes your team want to show up, day in and day out. Just because you can’t all be together for law firm meetings, lunches or happy hours, doesn’t mean that your culture should disappear altogether. Schedule periodic “get-togethers” for your team using technology platforms such as Zoom, Teams or Google Hangouts to foster a sense of togetherness. Stressing that no one is alone in navigating this “new normal” and staying in touch with one another is imperative. Initiating Friday “get-togethers,” such as virtual scavenger hunts for employees’ children or firm-wide fitness activities can be a great team morale booster.
All in all, when it comes to working remotely, right now, the vast majority of law firms are in the same boat. It’s been an unavoidable change and an opportunity to learn to grow as a team in an unconventional way. There may be a lasting impact from this challenge and methods that can be employed in the future once the return to a traditional office environment is feasible. Making the most of the situation now will only help to enhance the efficiency and productivity of your team in the future.