SuccessTips

COVID-19: Practical Guidance on Working From Home

Dear SuccessTips Reader –

Like you, I’ve been inundated by both general business and legal industry-specific emails about the crisis and how to respond to it. So here are some ideas and resources that I hope will be fresh and immediately useful regardless of your practice profile or geographic location. They’re grouped into two buckets, Business and Personal. 

 

Business Considerations

 

Managing Your Team Remotely 

Your staff will need extra guidance, connection and moral support as they adjust to working off-site.  Here’s Bruce Tulgan’s just-published article Guidelines For Managing People Remotely.  


Cyber-Security from Home

Sadly, yet predictably, scammers and hackers are redirecting their attention to home networks because they are far less secure than business networks. Here are two important things to do (and one important thing to NOT do) to reduce the risk of cyber harm to you and your firm. Make sure your employees are following these guidelines, too:

  1. If you never changed the default password that came with your modem, router, hub, or mesh network (or if you did but it’s not a strong password) change them to a minimum of a 12 digit random string with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numerals, and special characters (e.g., ^%$#@&!).
     
  2. Make sure you have robust, up-to-date antivirus/anti-malware software on all the computers you and your team are using from home. BitDefender Total Security 2020 is highly rated and it’s $36. It is considered by independent labs to be significantly more effective than similar products that come pre-installed on computers purchased from retail outlets.
     
  3. NEVER click on ANY link inside an email unless you are 95% sure it’s legitimate. Here’s an excellent resource from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Guide, How to Recognize Malicious Coronavirus Phishing Scams.  Share this with your team as well. 

Forward Snail Mail Home

If you own your firm and haven’t yet, consider doing this. There are several options and you can do it for as long as is needed:  https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm


Your Office Phone Might Work from Home

If your firm uses a hosted VOIP system such as Vonage Business, you and your staff can likely bring your office desk phones home and plug them into your home modem, router, or hub; they should work exactly as they did in your work office. No need to forward your calls to your cell. Intercom, hold, transfers, voicemails, etc. will all function normally. Check with your service provider and/or phone IT person to see if your phones have this capability. If they do, outgoing calls will show up on caller ID as your regular business phone instead of your cell (among other benefits). 


Video Conferencing Help 

If you don’t yet have video conference capability from home, sign up for a free or Pro Zoom account. It works on all devices including smartphones and tablets, so you don’t need a built-in or external webcam on your desktop or laptop. Here is Zoom’s resource link with videos on how to get started. Used properly, Zoom is secure and safe to use with clients and staff. Here is Zoom’s Security Guide.  


Other Productivity Tools

In addition to the well-known applications such as Office 365, practice management platforms such as CLIO, and cloud storage services such as Box, there are many function-specific services that can be especially helpful when adjusting your work process. One of my favorites, for those who don’t already use a voice dictation app, is the transcription service www.Rev.com. You can upload a file or provide a link to your cloud-stored audio file (in any format) and Rev will return an accurate formatted document within 24 hours. Extremely affordable. An excellent and free dictation tool is Google Voice Typing for Google Docs.  


Establish Daily Routines

This is arguably the single most important commitment you can make to yourself. It’s a tremendous psychic and emotional shift to work from home if you haven’t done it before.  Proximity to the refrigerator, countless invited and uninvited distractions, unfamiliar technology, heightened worry – all conspire to disturb your concentration and make it hard to develop workflow consistency. Cultivate extra-conscious awareness of setting repeatable routines for morning arrival to your workspace, meals and other self-care time, phone or video meetings with your staff, admin tasks, break times, etc. 


Start Using (or Recommit to Using) the Daily Planning Checklist Process

This is an essential tool bring structure to your day.  Download a copy of the DPC Checklist here.


Discuss with the other adults in your home your expectations, wants, and needs regarding your privacy and availability during the day. 

Yes, much easier said than done.  Here’s an excellent summary of what to discuss, especially if you have kids at home. 


Prep for Client Needs in the Aftermath

While no one knows how long the immediate medical and physical disruption will last, or how the federal stimulus bill will roll out over time, it is axiomatic that the need for legal guidance will be vast throughout society. Many practice areas will be faced with obvious opportunity for new work, while others will see a significant suspension of activity. In either case, it’s critical to identify how the typical needs of your target client base will be impacted, to anticipate their questions, and to communicate your guidance to them.


 

Personal Considerations

 

Restrict Your TV and Social Media Intake

So many people are writing about this already, but it deserves emphasis: Limit your intake of news about the crisis to no more than an hour a day, perhaps 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the early evening. The risk that you might “miss” an important new detail during the day to your actual detriment is extremely low. Yet the known negative psychological, emotional, and physical impacts of crisis-addled media over-consumption are real and dramatic. Our entire commercial information culture is set up to induce media addiction, but you do not have to go along with it.


Eat Well

Be careful not to fall prey to “grazing” now that the refrigerator and snack drawer are available all day. We all need to be healthier than ever, individually and collectively, so try to eat more plant-based foods and less sugar. You will feel distinctly better within two weeks. There are, of course, countless online resources to help you do this.


Exercise

Likewise, a simple search for “home exercise without equipment” will yield hundreds of videos to guide you. No gym? No problem! 


Healthy Music

Whether you’re a music lover/musician or not, soothing background music can reduce stress and improve concentration.  If you already have a streaming service, search playlists for terms such as “relaxation” or “brain music” or “white noise.” One of my favorite artists to have on in the background while I’m working is Dean Evenson (his own albums or his many collaborations).


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About the Author

Bill Jawitz, Law Firm Coach and Consultant

Bill Jawitz has been coaching lawyers to become more profitable and enjoy a higher quality of life since 2002.

He can be reached at bill@sucesstrackesq.com or at 203.876.8999.

I maintain a deep library of hundreds of best-of-breed checklists, templates, guides, and white papers on every aspect of managing a legal practice and law firm, from lawyer marketing plans, to hiring process checklists, to alternative fee engagement letters.

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