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In-house at Home: Developing Productive Working from Home Routines

“Make It Work” is a new column about working from home, inspired by the coronavirus lockdowns and work from home orders. Greg Stern, author of ACC Docket’s Tech Toolbox in the print magazine, has been working from home for five years steadily and three years intermittently before that. In this column, he offers insights on how to make teleworking work for you and your company.

In situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, many people can fall into extreme behaviors. At one end, we miss our office communities, and it can be tempting to compulsively seek out as many social interactions with colleagues or friends as we can, to the point where they can hijack our days. At the other extreme we may withdraw, driven by feelings of seclusion and worry that can make us feel more detached from those communities, and that too can interfere with our work. 

Designing routines and systems (e.g., designating standard working hours and standard break times, setting your office at home so that it really feels like an office at home) will help you feel more even keeled. This may include things like setting up standard working hours and standard break times, setting up your office at home so that it really feels like an office at home, and similar things.

I also recommend treating this as an opportunity. I have spoken with many people who feel that the shelter-in-place social-distancing thing has triggered a reevaluation of various aspects of their lives, often in surprising and rewarding ways. It has made many of us pause some of our frenetic patterns of rushing from here to there or engaging in behaviors that may have become more habitual than rewarding, thereby making us appreciate life’s simpler pleasures we had been taking for granted.  

Well, this is an opportunity to reevaluate your work behaviors too. If you are one of the lucky attorneys who had grown accustomed to working closely with an admin or paralegal to help you do some of the things that enabled you to do your primary work, you may now find that you need to develop systems either for continuing to work with them remotely, or you may find that you need to figure out a way to get those same things done on your own. And, there are many tricks you can use to make your work at home as or more productive than your office work has been. 

For example, many of you have likely been using the technology tools you use every day in the same ways you taught yourself when you first were handed a personal computer and told how to log into the company email system. But tools like Outlook, Word, Excel, and Google Search have changed and grown in features tremendously in the past 10 or even five years, in ways that you might find could dramatically improve your productivity. 

Recently, I remotely attended an ACC Legal Ops XChange presentation on using some of these ubiquitous technologies. If you didn’t catch it, I recommend watching the recording. Even though I have spent years pushing most of my tools to the limit, I still got some great ideas to help make me more productive.

Look for pain points in your processes. These may be minor or major frustrations in your workflows that you have been putting up with for years. Or, you may find certain repetitive patterns in what you do that you stopped noticing years ago. If you can identify tedious things, like repetitively typing your address or certain boilerplate language, you might try learning how to develop tricks (e.g., keyboard shortcuts) to ease some of the burden. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely have lasting impacts on our lives. Try to make sure that at least some of them are positive, whether you are talking about working from home or simply appreciating the good things in life. 

For more advice on the coronavirus pandemic, visit ACC's Coronavirus Response Resource Page.

About the Author

Gregory SternGreg Stern is formerly global integration counsel at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and is presently ACC Docket’s Tech Toolbox columnist. [email protected]

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.