One impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been a shift to a more flexible working model. As social distancing and isolation call for innovative responses, the question is whether short-term remote work initiatives offer long-term viability for the legal profession.
As recruitment specialists, McKenna & Associates know premium candidates appreciate flexible employers. The current unprecedented circumstances showcase adaptability, and open-minded remote work practices stretching beyond the pandemic could contribute to your firm attracting the best possible legal professionals.
Breaking the bias against remote work.
In recent decades tech industries have adopted remote work more readily, but the legal profession has been slower to consider widespread offsite employment. The COVID19 outbreak has resulted in sweeping change, with remote work mandatory for the majority of legal professionals.
Previously held common prejudices to remote employment include:
- Worries staff are not working a full day (specifically billable targets)
- Loss of urgency impacting productivity.
- Limited accessibility to necessary documentation.
- Communication breakdown within the office.
- Negative impact on team morale.
- Client disconnects without face-to-face interaction.
Many firms are discovering quality staff disprove the above presumptions, especially when paired with proactive and creative leadership. Thus far, functional office culture in Western Australia has survived the changeover to majority communication via video conferencing, phone calls, messaging and email.
By constantly adjusting strategies to address offsite needs, it’s become clear a primarily remote workforce is a potentially sustainable company model. A question for the future is whether legal clients will respect a majority offsite infrastructure supported by skeletal onsite office staff.
Re-allocating professional perspectives.
For many years in-person meet ‘n greets have been viewed as a necessity when obtaining and retaining legal clientele. Social customs attached to these consultations are related to professional power dynamics that infer respect between legal practitioners and those they represent. Securing sought-after contracts without meeting in person was unusual.
After the present crisis has passed a shift in perspectives may see companies reject previously entrenched business practices and beliefs. Proving your firm is able to handle caseloads remotely during an emergency, combined with client experiences of offsite work set-ups, may see a revolution in what constitutes professional engagement.
Cybersecurity and working from home.
The digital world allows for the technology to address business needs from staff residences. While workplace networks have been set up to protect against outside interference, home computers often don’t have the same protection. Many legal workers are handling sensitive judiciary material and in the abrupt transition, cybersecurity factors could be overlooked.
Protecting client data is vital. Companies need to take extra care to ensure the digital security of their employees’ home set-ups. Internal policies may require review by information technology experts. In the long-term, continued optimal performance relies on home-based employee access to high performing programs and equipment.
Working from home safely.
Safe Work Australia offers a number of tips on minimising risks in a worker’s home. They suggest employers:
- Provide guidance on what qualifies as a safe home environment. This includes what a good station set up looks like, and how to keep physically active.
- Require workers to familiarise themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices, for example by referring to a self-assessment checklist.
- Maintain daily communication with workers.
For further information, and helpful links, visit the Safe Work Australia website Working From Home section.