Simon Harper, LOD co-founder

LOD co-founder Simon Harper shares his and his colleague’s top tips for working remotely, as most of the industry shifts to the habit following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

LOD has been coordinating a global flexible legal workforce for over a decade now but when we started, remote working was regarded with some suspicion. Though it has been quietly on the rise ever since, the inertia on this trend has been how lawyers are wired to think about work, defaulting to being “on site” as the norm. Now, we suddenly find ourselves having a responsibility to not just think the other way around — what’s our reason to work from the office today? — but also now the more radical question of how to work when there is no central office we can go to. 

The nature of the LOD model means we’ve seen the challenges (and the deep benefits) of remote and distributed legal work. With over one thousand lawyers and consultants around the world and almost 50% of those working flexibly, we asked for some of their top tips for effective remote working. We spoke with fully remote lawyers across the U.K. as well as in New Zealand, Singapore, and Australia. We’ve distilled their advice down to 7 key tips:

1) Give thought to your space

The number one theme emerging from our remote-based lawyers is about workspace. The key here is to properly set up a place to work. Don’t just use a kitchen table or (even worse) your bed. Try to find a dedicated desk and ensure you have your ergonomics well set up. Consider: the height of your screen, your chair and whether you can utilise a standing desk. Another element that has been repeated by our remote lawyers is to try and have a window view. The science supports it, views are good for our brains – especially if you can see into the distance.

2) Over-communicate

People used to an office environment and lots of co-located colleagues might find the initial experience of working from home quite jarring. You can’t simply bound down the corridor and see your friend or ask a question of a mentor. To help you manage the disorientation, it’s recommended you schedule in regular check-ins with your colleagues. This will not only help build structure into your day but also provide important human interaction… which leads to the next tip.

3) Flick on the video button

It’s likely you’ll be provided a video-conference platform by your firm or organisation — Teams, Hangouts and Zoom are common examples. With all these platforms you can opt for audio-only but the strong recommendation from our lawyer team is to always put video on. We communicate so much via body language and it adds much more when you can see your team. So, don’t be camera shy.

4) Use the rhythm of mealtimes

Don’t let working from home make you forget breakfast or lunch. Not only is the nourishment essential (healthy food, we hope), but again it helps to add structure to your day. The nature of deliberately scheduling your meals is vital to grounding you and not getting lost in a fuzzy world of merged home and work life.

5) Claim back your time

Even those of us that live relatively close to our place of work can spend an hour or more a day commuting – for some it’s much more. Working remotely gives you this time back and already removes part of the day that many of us find stressful – I’m personally thinking of the Northern Line at 8 am on a Monday morning! Using this extra time to do some exercise, even just a walk, is proven to decrease stress levels and improve productivity.

6) Get disciplined about distractions

It can be easy to waste time if you’re easily distracted by phone notifications and news alerts. This is even more true in the time of Covid-19, as we get relentless updates that demand our attention. One way of managing this is to disable notifications. Another way is to schedule in specific times for checking news – to help you from constantly checking and disrupting your flow.

7) Try some productivity tools

There are a bunch of tools out there to help our workflow. Productivity can take a hit when you first adjust to working from home when you don’t maintain your focus. To help you focus, you can consider workflow managers, like Trello, timing techniques like Pomodoro, or work methodologies like “Getting Things Done”. Don’t get too lost in the research but there are plenty to choose from if you haven’t adopted one already.

As we all adjust to the new reality of 2020 life, it’s important to expect some hiccups. You won’t instantly be a “working-from-home warrior” if it’s new to you. We hope these tips from our lawyers will help you adjust to your new working situation. Who knows, as we worry about how to cope day-to-day, perhaps we can find some hope that this experience might give us all longer-term freedom in how we choose to work and interact.