Just as we’ve seen in so many industries, many in the legal industry have had to transition to remote practices in 2020. Fortunately, day-to-day legal work can generally be conducted without in-person contact. While it’s undoubtedly an inconvenience at times, and there are other reasons business may have slowed down for many in the profession, remote work itself is manageable.
However, remote work in a more general sense can still be problematic. That is to say, while there may be nothing about your average day-to-day legal work that necessarily requires you to be in the office, the actual circumstances of working from home still have an impact. There’s less of a schedule, there are more distractions, and it can ultimately be difficult to stay on top of things the same way you would in a more traditional setting.
As you may have noticed, there’s a steady stream of advice these days on how to cope with these circumstances. There are tips for how to work from home and maintain productivity. However, here are some productivity myths that may be holding you back if you're working remotely:
Myth #1: Communication Should Be Constant
There’s a growing perception that when working from home that people should stay in constant contact with coworkers. It’s an understandable impulse, and in some ways a means of simulating life at the office. But when you think about it, you don’t have constant communication at work either. Rather, you have meaningful communication. So it’s most important to think about how you communicate — not how often. Make sure that you really connect with coworkers when you need to, and you’ll likely find conversations are more productive than if you simply attempt to keep up a steady stream of remote conversation that’s not particularly necessary.
Myth #2: You Should Isolate Yourself
It’s commonly suggested that the only way to be productive working when from home is to wall yourself off, particularly if you have a partner and/or children at home. The logic is clear: It’s not normal to interact with your family while working, and it can certainly take away from your productivity. At the same time, we’d suggest it’s not ordinary to be totally isolated either. There should be occasional breaks with occasional social contact, whether that means taking half an hour to be with the kids, meeting a friend for a socially distanced lunch or coffee break, or anything similar. You should give yourself space to work, but not so much space that you’re actually more isolated than you would be under ordinary circumstances.
Myth #3: Meetings Must Occur Daily
This idea goes hand-in-hand with that of communication being constant. There’s a sense among some that without the chance to occupy an office together, people ought to hold daily Zoom meetings to stay on the same page. And at times in the legal profession, such meetings will be absolutely necessary. When they’re not necessary though, they shouldn’t be forced. In fact, some companies have specifically boosted productivity by easing up on meetings (whether remote or otherwise). According to Verizon Connect’s article on business productivity tips, none other than Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has introduced a “No Meeting Wednesday” policy. The idea is to provide at least one day off from mandated gatherings, and this will ultimately make the meetings you do have more productive.
Myth #4: A Flexible Schedule Will Help You
The concept of flexibility has become a very popular one as companies of all kinds adjust to remote work. It seems to come from a place of understanding; business owners and managers are being advised to allow for more flexibility as a means of keeping employees comfortable (and sane) working from home. This is a nice idea, and some big-picture flexibility may be warranted. But the truth is that a schedule will still keep you more productive. It may not look exactly like your office schedule, but at the very least structuring your day around routines and repetitions should help. Routines recommended by Lifehack, give you a few good ideas of little things you can do to keep your days in order — from getting up and getting dressed at a certain time, to taking a run or walk before work, and so on.
If you are able to avoid falling for these myths, you’ll have a good chance to remain productive in your practice, during both these unusual conditions and into the future.