Remote work has been enabled by faster internet connections and more accessible mobile devices, and businesses are keen to jump on the trend of incorporating it into their workflows. In particular, despite the heavy compliance rules and the confidential data they handle, law firms are slowly embracing the culture of working off-site. They are trying different iterations of remote work policies and practices, with the most extreme case being the virtual firm, a setup where the company has no physical office and all lawyers and staff work remotely.
But just because remote work is effective for one establishment doesn’t mean it will also be effective for you. Should you adopt work remote work policies? Here are some of the most salient points for and against the argument to help you decide.
Flexibility is an important consideration if you want to retain talent. According to corporate culture expert Deloitte, about three out of four millennials prefer to work in a company that allows them to work from home. Satisfied employees are more likely to stay, and remote work definitely helps facilitate the work-life balance that gives them a sense of contentment.
- Cost savings
Virtual law firms don’t have physical offices, and while this might not be the most ideal setup for your practice, it can be a model as to how you can save on operational costs. When lawyers and staff work outside office premises, you can lower electricity consumption. You can even lease a smaller office space!
- Boosted productivity
A two-year study by Stanford University concludes that remote workers are 13% more productive than those who work in a physical office. According to the study, off-site workers render a true full shift with less distractions and more work done compared to their in-office counterparts who tend to be late because of their commute or be unfocused at work because of noise or office chatter.
- Security issues
Law firms deal with sensitive data and lawyers are held under the oath of client confidentiality, so every client file should be protected at all times, lest it be copied, lost, stolen, or destroyed. Remote work can compromise the safety of a firm’s data when lawyers connect to networks that don’t have enterprise-grade security systems: cybercriminals can steal your confidential files or keep them hostage in exchange for money.
- Lack of organization-wide communication
If lawyers spend more time working remotely and don’t get to spend face time with their colleagues, they might end up not feeling any sense of community or belonging in your firm. This can in turn engender conflicts or worse, cause employee turnover.
- Productivity dips
It takes autonomy and commitment to work remotely without supervision. Some legal professionals are lacking in those departments, so it’s more efficient when someone micromanages them from time to time. Without anyone frequently checking in on them, they might become lax and less productive.
Some also find working off-site more distracting than working in an office. The prattle in coffee shops can be quite off-putting, or the TV in one’s apartment can whittle time away from work. In such instances, remote work becomes counterproductive.
The long and short of it
Up to 50% of the US workforce is predicted to be remote in the near future, and businesses that adopt remote work sooner will undoubtedly enjoy more advantages than businesses that don’t. The best course of action, therefore, is to contain the disadvantages of working remotely by:
- Partnering with a cybersecurity expert that can keep your systems protected and your data secured 24/7/365;
- Utilizing technology like Office 365 and Microsoft Teams and turning them into solutions that bridge communication gaps and promote collaboration; and
- Drafting guidelines about who is allowed to do remote work and for what, all the while using business analytics tools to monitor if employees working outside company premises are hitting their targets.
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