With many Americans being asked to stay at home during the Covid-19 outbreak, individuals, roommates, and families are figuring out what it means to work from home while sharing space with others. Here are some practical tips for the transition.
1. Create space—Think through the existing spaces in your home and be willing to re-think their purposes. Consider putting a permanent or fold-away table in a bedroom as a workstation. Move clothes aside in a closet to make a “cloffice.” Use outdoor spaces if weather permits. If areas become “dual purpose” (dining table for schoolwork, bedroom for conference calls) set up bins where you can quickly stow work materials when it’s time to switch tasks. And while we’re all using video conferencing more, consider how you are presenting yourself on these calls. Is the picture that others see of you while on these conferences the professional image that you want to project? Identify or create a quiet space in your home with a professional (or clutter-free) backdrop where you can participate in these calls comfortably and professionally. And don’t forget to change out of your PJs before joining – at least from the waist up.
2. Create time—In addition to re-thinking physical space, consider alternatives to your normal workplace schedule to balance multiple adults working under one roof. Extra time can be carved out for work that was formerly filled with commutes. Work might have to happen during mornings, nights, or weekends when it didn’t used to. In families with children, work time might be split up allowing one parent to take the lead on parenting for certain hours or for important calls, then the other steps in. Take time weekly to talk about upcoming calls that can’t be rescheduled, and think through what happens in shared spaces if housemates have to be on conference or video calls at the same time.
3. Create connection—While you may be gaining new “co-workers,” it’s unsettling to give up the daily connections you had at the office. Schedule video meetings with team members for ongoing projects, but also schedule calls to fellow attorneys and support staff you’re not actively working with to check in. Not all calls or video conferences need an agenda. Remember how energizing it was to share a story or laugh with your colleagues in the hallway of your office? Those moments of levity build camaraderie, so don’t be afraid to call a colleague to share a funny story or even to vent (briefly) while you’re both working from home. We had a virtual “happy hour” among our corporate team earlier this week that allowed all of us to decompress and reconnect in a more relaxed setting – for some of us, our own back porches and living rooms. Remember that working effectively as a team requires more than spreadsheets and calendar invitations. It also requires relational qualities like trust, collaboration and creativity, so it’s important to nurture these aspects of your team as well.
4. Think through security—Reach out to IT staff, your malpractice carrier, and/or your local bar about network security risks that might arise from working at home, and best practices to avoid being hacked. Similarly, be vigilant to maintain client confidentiality with electronic and paper files, and phone or video calls that could be overheard.
5. Limit distractions—Most of us are already working among multiple distractions—housemates, children, pets, the additional sounds of video games and TV playing in the background, not to mention our own thoughts as they race between daily tasks and concern about older relatives or how we’re going to get more toilet paper. So don’t add to this list by repeatedly checking social media throughout the day or stopping every 15 minutes to watch the latest “breaking news” on CNN. Some distractions you won’t be able to avoid, so minimize the ones you have control over.
6. Be prepared—Get extra cell phone and laptop batteries to keep charged up in the event of a power outage. Plan for how to handle internet slowdown or outages. Have a hard copy of phone numbers of important contacts on hand. As uncomfortable as it might be, think through what you will do if someone in your home becomes ill and can’t leave their room.
7. Be Flexible—What works on Day or Week 1 might be unworkable by Day or Week 2. Don’t be afraid to toss your initial setup and schedule and start from scratch, or tweak details.
8. Be Patient—We are in an unprecedented time and making enormous changes to our work and personal lives almost overnight. Remember that most people are going through the same adjustment, and offer a little more leeway. Know that others are probably doing the same for you. And don’t forget to cut yourself a break every now and then.
As a lawyer, you have skills that make you especially qualified for multitasking and uncertainty—the ability to think on your feet, to quickly research, to issue-spot, trouble-shoot and identify creative solutions. These skills will help you through your daily work from home challenges as well.
Latitude, a high-end legal services company with offices in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Miami and Nashville, provides peer-level attorneys and paralegals on an engagement basis to corporate legal departments and law firms, increasing flexibility while reducing costs. Latitude’s clients are law firms and corporate legal departments. Latitude serves its clients when they need more help, want to reduce costs, and don’t want to risk quality. Latitude also assists clients with permanent position searches. Latitude’s law firm-level attorneys enjoy full benefits, high pay, sophisticated work, great clients and optimal work-life balance. For more information visit www.latitudelegal.com.