Based on Government advice, many law firms have already made the change to remote working.
This can pose challenges, especially when sustained over a longer period.
The following guidelines, developed by the Human Resources Department of the Law Society, may help you to adapt to a new way of working with your team.
Set rules and expectations
Organise a remote meeting or conference call with your team to discuss remote working expectations. When expectations are agreed and clear, the team will respond more productively.
- Be clear on working hours. Your team will be most productive if they get into a regular routine and log off completely at the end of the working day. When workloads are heavy, it can be tempting to keep working, but people should be reminded that this is not sustainable over a longer period. It is also important that members of the team continue to respect each other’s personal time and avoid contacting each other about work matters out of hours,
- Set clear response times for the team both to respond to other colleagues and to external queries,
- Identify the appropriate means of communication for different work matters,
- Identify a notification procedure if someone is to be contacted urgently or if for some reason a member of the team cannot meet the agreed expectations.
Establish a flow of communication
Establishing a check-in and regular communication flow will motivate both you and your team to be more productive. This is especially important when remote working.
Use a combination of one-to-one meetings with key staff and group team meetings. Make sure that everyone contributes and consider asking different team members to lead team meetings.
Good communication with your team has three parts:
- Weekly one-to-one meetings: Organise a 30-minute weekly one-to-one with your direct reports or key staff to maintain your relationship in a new working environment, allow for questions, ideas and review priorities.
- Weekly review meeting with your team for 30-60 minutes: This is an opportunity for everyone to link up on weekly priorities, problems and information.
- End-of-day check-in: At the end of the day, members of the team should communicate by updating what they have achieved that day.
Be patient and supportive of your team
As your team try to adapt to this new way of working, they may be trying to balance new personal responsibilities. Trust your team, be flexible with their workloads and manage through agreed weekly outputs.
- Lead with empathy, seek to understand people’s struggles with their environment adjustment and help them to prioritise their work,
- Give your team the flexibility to get work done on a schedule that helps them to be most productive. For example, agree how working parents will balance their work and childcare responsibilities and take the time to ask them how they are coping outside of work matters,
- Encourage routine: encourage your team to take break times as they usually would when working at the office.
Establish a 'video-first' culture
'Video first’ is a communication strategy that places priority on video conferencing tools, as opposed to audio-only conference calls.
Team meetings can be hosted through using Zoom or similar software.
It is important at this time to bring people together to feel reassured and connected. Whether having a one-on-one meeting or a team meeting, the benefits of video-first practice include:
- Building better relationships by tapping into non-verbal communication,
- Encouraging people to be presentable when contributing to work,
- Encouraging people to think carefully about their workspace and to select a professional and quiet location,
- Allowing people to get comfortable with new technology.
Promoting social connection
Good relationships are important when keeping motivation levels high. It goes without saying that this is an extraordinary and uncertain time. Managers should be aware that remote working and social distancing will affect working relationships and that management efforts should be increased to build and maintain them.
- People who must remote work abruptly and without sufficient warning are likely to feel disconnected, which can lower productivity and engagement. Although social distancing is very important at this time, you can encourage your team to connect socially through technology. For example, encourage them to schedule a virtual coffee with a colleague, or schedule virtual lunches between the team,
- Allow a group sharing chat, such as the Zoom Group Chat, to allow the team to share and discuss things like photos, sports, childcare or even a book club,
- Use the first few minutes of your check-in meetings to share personal updates and discuss personal interest,
- Don’t forget to recognise the team for their efforts and where appropriate, share it with the whole team.
While some people on your team will struggle with remote working, others will make the transition very easily. A good manager will be cognisant of this and adapt their approach accordingly.
- People on the team who are outgoing and driven by team interaction or those who are used to a daily routine may be slower to adjust to remote working than others,
- Highly assertive or dominant team members may struggle without the structure of the office,
- Conscientious / compliance types will make the transition most easily.