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As the entire world deals with the sudden shift to remote working wherever possible, legal professionals, and specifically those in ediscovery, face a unique set of challenges. Now that we’re well into our second month of COVID-19 lockdown, most of us have already discovered that technology alone doesn’t ensure business continuity and can’t fully replace in-person collaboration. Instead, we’re all looking for innovative ways to best utilize technology and adapt to this new normal of working virtually, while retaining the human element of collaboration that naturally comes from being together in a physical office. This is important not only for how to get your work done remotely, but also how to actually manage that remote workforce.
In a recent webinar, I acted as moderator alongside speakers Anthony Cardine, Director of Practice Support at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Cynthia Chan, E-Discovery PMO Manager at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Nicole Langston, Senior eDiscovery Counsel at Barclays, to discuss the challenges associated with managing a remote ediscovery workforce, as well as the best tips and tricks learned thus far to set your team up for success. In particular, we strategized on effective communication and collaboration techniques, how to model the right behavior for our employees and understand how each employee contributes to the team dynamic, and how to keep on top of business drivers that have the potential to undermine your efforts.
In our discussion, we integrated ideas from lessons learned at Lighthouse, as one of the original pioneers in operating remote and geographically distributed teams, with solutions taken from those who are new to the front lines of remote work. Here are the top challenges and proposed solutions we came up with during our webinar.
Key Challenges for Managers
Among the key challenges our panelists have faced so far in the new remote work landscape, is how to create a similar environment to the physical office that includes the right technology for encouraging communication and collaboration. Top challenges include:
- Creating and/or updating a remote policy: Many organizations started from scratch and didn’t have a remote policy in place. In this case, the biggest challenge has been creating a policy on the fly and effectively communicating its parameters to employees who aren’t accustomed to working from home. On the other hand, those who had an existing policy have needed to quickly adapt it to the current circumstances.
- Providing remote access to tools and technology: The rapid pivot to remote work brought about an instant challenge in the form of making sure every employee had the tools and technology necessary to work from home. Security and privacy are also critical considerations with those tools.
- Ensuring access to additional equipment: For those used to working with multiple monitors, ergonomic desks, etc., it’s been extra challenging to make sure employees are equipped with a home environment conducive to productivity.
Key Challenges for Employees
Among the top challenges for employees, especially those who are new to remote work, is finding ways to maintain work-life balance. Top challenges include:
- Carving out ways to unplug: Without the physical separation between work and home, many employees are facing difficulties and constant anxiety with establishing a new form of work-life balance and unplugging from job responsibilities each day.
- Dealing with distractions at home: In this new world where children, roommates, partners, etc. are constantly in your space and creating distractions, employees need more support than normal from their managers to understand and navigate these work environment impediments.
- Avoiding and/or feeling an inability to take PTO: Even though stay-at-home orders are in place across the globe, expecting employees to work nonstop every day is unrealistic. Employees are unsure or wary of taking their PTO just to stay home and, in general, unsure of when and how to take breaks.
Top Tips & Tricks for Effective Communication
With these challenges in mind, panelists shared top tips and tricks from their experiences managing teams on the front lines of remote work thus far:
- Use video in your meetings: It’s an obvious one, but a lifesaver in this time of quarantine. Ensure your employees feel empowered to always turn on their camera during meetings by also modeling the same behavior.
- Check in, but don’t go overboard: Micromanagement is always unwelcome by employees but, especially in this time, it’s important to convey the message as a manager that you trust your team in their home environment by not constantly checking in with them.
- Set clear results and objectives: In addition to setting the right example as a manager by sticking to a defined work schedule, showcasing work-life balance for yourself, taking scheduled PTO, and modeling a positive outlook, make sure to set clear objectives that include flexibility for your employees during this challenging time.
Ultimately, with the right tools and technology, combined with prioritizing the human element necessary to make this all work, we can effectively lead our remote workforces while increasing productivity and employee happiness. To discuss this topic further, please feel free to reach out to me at JKarosich@lighthouseglobal.com. I’d love to hear what’s been working for you and your remote ediscovery teams!