The pandemic set a new precedent for remote work, and with it came some growing pains as professionals adjusted to life in a home office. In a previous post, we outlined the value of good habits that make working from home as an attorney more successful. Now it’s time to hone our senses and be on the lookout for the mistakes and poor decisions that can quickly turn into bad habits.
Law firms big and small may be facing a new definition of “workplace” as remote attorneys carve out a new normal, but the expectations of leaders and clients haven’t changed. Ensure your continued success both professionally and personally by nipping these trends in the bud.
1. Interrupting (and being interrupted) while working remotely
With no water cooler to visit, you (and your coworkers) may actually be easier to reach than usual. The downside? Interruptions abound and boundaries collapse. Avoid the temptation to constantly ping people via chat for things that don’t have an immediate need.
Another distraction? Your own home. If you’re the type who cannot help but tidy every room you enter, get your house in order before heading into “the office.” You’ll be less tempted to go off task and clean the kitchen in the middle of a productive workday.
2. Becoming a wallflower
Remaining connected to coworkers is a major challenge of working from home as a lawyer. Don’t let it become an issue due to your own inaction. Speak up if you’re not able to hear, see, or understand what’s being shared in the meeting and on screen.
More than that, speak up in general. It’s easy to feel like you’re interrupting when people seem to talk all at once. But disappearing into the background does a disservice to yourself and to your peers. You deserve to be heard, and your firm needs your full participation.
3. Losing sight of your priorities
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is especially true when it comes to remote work. In the office, seeing someone pass by in the hall can remind you of a less-than-urgent request. Stay in one room all day, though, and the backburner becomes a cold, cold place where tasks go to die.
The fact is, time management, organization, and self-discipline are some of the most important qualities to embrace when you’re working remotely. Even if your law firm lacks sophisticated project management software, tools like Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks feature or the Reminders app in MacOS can help you check the necessary boxes each day.
4. Getting sloppy with your attire when remote
This is your brain. This is your brain in sweats. Any questions? Working via webcam brings with it some new, relaxed standards of professional appearance, but homebound workers need to keep in mind that you’re likely going to have to face these people in person again someday. Seasoned remote employees will tell you that dressing for work makes a difference in how you think and act.
When you’re working from home and lack defined workplace norms, the best move is to continue to “dress for your day.” If you’ll be on camera with clients or partners, you’ll want to express the same amount of professionalism as a remote attorney that you would in person.
5. Failing to maintain your posture
If you typically work in an office setting, there’s a good chance that your home desk chair isn’t up to your usual standards. Even a basic cubicle farm was specifically designed for a full day’s work. Can you say the same about your home setup?
When you suddenly find yourself in a workspace that was built for part-time use, you’ll need to take steps to avoid full-time back pain. At the very least, align your desk, chair, and monitor properly. If you can, consider creating two spaces that allow you to move between them throughout the day with your laptop. A desk area can be for typing, and a dresser or bookshelf allows you to take calls or attend meetings while standing up. And take a walk around noon. The movement is good for your body and mind.
6. Eating all day long
Days at home can drag on at first and absent-minded eating is a frighteningly easy trap to fall into. For one thing, snagging food at the office takes more effort and costs money whereas the chips in your cupboard are right at hand. Nevertheless, resist the urge to snack out of simplicity or, dare I say it, boredom.
If grocery shopping has become a challenge due to social distancing or temporarily bare shelves, you’ll want to be more conscientious about your eating habits anyway. If access to food isn’t a challenge, your newly-shortened commute means far more time to start your day with a healthy breakfast and prepare a lunch that doesn’t require venting a plastic film.
Remember, habits are quick to build and slow to break. If you’re working remotely as a lawyer, now is not the time to start loosening your own standards regarding diet, dress code, or demeanor. Your career and your body thrive on self-discipline and good habits. In the new remote workplace, it’s up to you to embrace what works, learn what doesn’t, and adjust what you need in order to continue delivering at your best.