The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have radically changed the way many of us run our law firms. A few months ago, many attorneys wouldn’t have imagined the idea of having the staff work from home; now, it’s become the new normal, at least for now. That said, it’s not a perfect system. If you’re like most of us, you’ve found this new way of running an “office” a bit clunky and “buggy” at times. What are some common challenges law firms currently face with telework, and what can you do about them?
Inconsistent Employee Work Times
The flip side to the convenience of working from home is that sometimes the atmosphere is a bit too relaxed. It’s too easy for employees to take their time logging onto their computers, getting on the phones, etc. If you find your employees getting lax or showing up for work inconsistently, you might try using one of the many virtual time clock apps that are currently available to make employees more accountable for their time. If it’s conducive to do so, you can also try having everyone start the work day simultaneously with a 5-10 minute video team meeting in the mornings.
Bear in mind that you may have to manage your own expectations here. Some employees that aren’t used to teleworking may honestly have difficulty coordinating set work hours due to kids at home, family distractions, etc.—so you may have to exercise a bit of flexibility and let employees set their own hours for tasks that aren’t as time-sensitive.
Overlap with Delegating Tasks
If your normal office sees multiple employees doing the same tasks, it can be challenging to coordinate and delegate remotely because team members can’t confer in person as easily. Some clients and leads might get multiple phone calls, for example, because two teammates thought it was their job to call them. To help keep specific tasks coordinated, try implementing a collaborative online platform like Monday.com, Teamwork or even Salesforce. Platforms like these help you assign specific tasks to different teammates; they also allow teammates to collaborate on sales leads and client funnels more easily because everyone can see what has been done, reducing overlap.
Challenges with Office Supplies and Expenses
When you’ve got everyone working from home, you’ve got offices in multiple locations by definition. If these offices need supplies like paper, envelopes, stamps, ink, etc., you may encounter chaos and large credit card bills with everyone ordering what they believe they need, sending you reimbursement receipts, etc. To track these expenses more efficiently, you might assign a teammate as a “supply officer,” someone who coordinates the restocking of these home offices. Teammates can send their requests to the supply officer, and he/she can place the orders, process payments and have items shipped to their homes.
Coordinating a law firm practice from multiple home offices can definitely be challenging. You may encounter other problems we haven’t mentioned here, and you may come up with different solutions that work better than the ideas we’ve suggested. The key to making it work is simply to bring the same spirit of creativity to these problems as you bring to the law firm itself.