2020 has been a year of adaptation with changes cascading across our public, personal and professional lives. The workplace shift has been dramatic. Companies have been forced to adopt remote work processes to stay operational. Professor Nicholas Bloom suggests that the United States is essentially a work-from-home economy and that remote work may have saved the economy during the pandemic. Looking forward, remote work should be given full, long-term consideration in applicable industries.
The legal industry has felt this shift as lawyers and other legal professionals have embraced remote work. As this trend settles, companies and firms need ways to engage and communicate with colleagues and coworkers. This will be key for those in the legal sector because their business has been traditionally reliant on face-to-face, in-person communication.
Over the last few months, ABC Legal Services has worked to make its employees as connected as possible while adjusting to social distancing. Based on experiences from this year, here are eight ideas expected to be essential to maintaining employee connectivity.
Emphasize Understanding and Flexibility
It can mean a lot to your employees to feel comfortable asking about and being able to make adjustments to fit in with the constant state of flux. In a discussion with Kylie Lobell of Legal Management on ways law firms and legal employees can engage with their remote teams, ABC Legal Services’ Chief Operating Officer, Tim Dinehart asserts, “simply letting your team know that this is an unusual time and offering flexibility will go a long way.”
Timing for meetings and work is a large consideration for workers, especially those with families. Mehlhase stresses the importance of being flexible with changing conditions, “if your work allows for it, giving opportunities for employees to adjust their hours helps them be more productive and feel secure. Moving hours to be early morning, late night or on a weekend can let them compensate for distractions and new obligations, like needing to work with their kids, who are now learning remotely.”
Provide New Opportunities for Employees to Engage
ABC Legal Services has found success in optimizing an all-hands company meeting for remote work. The company meeting transitioned from a longer, quarterly meeting to a 15-minute meeting on Fridays. Inclusive and short, these meetings are here for the team to highlight successes and share the work each department is doing. Senior management provides encouragement for interaction and sharing during the meeting. Dinehart expresses to employees, “this is a time where everyone is encouraged to share wins of all sizes-small, medium and large. Celebrate our wins. These are the fun things we can come together on.” Sascha Mehlhase, Vice President of Product and Innovation at ABC Legal emphasizes, “company updates with senior management are vital because they provide an opportunity for employees across the company to engage with leadership, address concerns, provide suggestions and improvements and highlight the outstanding accomplishments.”
Find a Solid Platform for Collaboration and Communication
Making sure that your teams have access to the right programs and platforms is essential in remote work. Joe Canfield, Director of HR at ABC Legal Services credits the Microsoft business communication platform, Microsoft Teams, as becoming the backbone for much of the communication for remote workers, “I don’t know how we could have gotten through any of this without Microsoft Teams. It’s given us great interactivity.” Conversations that were formally held in the office have transitioned to the chat functionality in Teams. Kimberly Kent, Supervisor, E-filing, has found that having the chat functionality in Teams provides, “a great place to house co-worker chit chat and conversations.” Account Manager Tyler Schuldt concurs, “it all comes down to Microsoft Teams. From our daily huddle to our team chat, there's really no other way we connect at this point."
Anticipate Technical Difficulties And Look for Secure Solutions
Long-term solutions are necessary. Joe Canfield, Director of Human Resources at ABC Legal notes that teams within the company have been experiencing more technical problems since becoming fully reliant on remote applications and server speeds, highlighting the importance of digital connections. A major goal for any company dealing with sensitive data should be to have everyone on a virtual private network or VPN. VPNs provide more security for data sent over public networks and quicker network speeds.
Supply Equipment That Supports Interaction
A big priority for the ABC Legal team is ensuring employees are able to access or take home what they need to work efficiently. One of the best investments for current and for new employees has been ensuring everyone has video capabilities. “Ensuring that people have video access and can at least see each other has helped the transition. We’ve needed to invest in web cameras and transition some employees from desktops to laptops,” explains Canfield.
Get Management On Board
Managers make a huge difference in employee engagement and connectivity. Canfield stresses the importance of the active involvement of managers in checking on their employees’ statuses to monitor engagement and productivity. Before COVID-19, managers could feel out where employees are in their day with simple observations. It’s more difficult when you can’t see your employees. To counteract this, the managers are encouraged to increase instances of interaction, with regular check-ins for individuals and teams. While this devotes more of the manager’s time to meetings, it’s of real benefit to employee morale.
“Now our employees are getting more one-on-one attention. Since there are no in-office intrusions, they’re getting undisturbed and truly focused time with their managers.”
Realign Goals and Spark Spirits with Competitions
Since workflows, businesses and court processes have slowed due to COVID-19, goals have shifted to match conditions. Adapting metrics and reporting methods to reflect the state of the industry and applicable regulations has been a focus. Additionally, with business starting to resume, there’s a loss of momentum to overcome. ABC Legal has found that friendly competition can incentivize performance and help employees reclaim morale. Competitions can be small (for bragging rights) or can involve prizes or performance bonuses. According to Canfield, the benefit of the competition extends beyond the competition. He explains, "some competitions we tried were very successful and others were a little ambitious. But they all created a fun way to kickstart initiatives and get employees reinvested.”
Look to Innovate or Adapt Where Able
Adapting technology, goals and interactions with employees has allowed the company to maintain its culture and keep communication and visibility open despite the distance between employees and the office. Even if extensive programs and immediate implementation isn’t feasible for your company at this time, small steps can go a long way to improving connectivity. Finding new ways to adapt processes and engage employees will allow legal businesses to evolve with economic and cultural shifts, keeping clients and the employees themselves happier.
About ABC Legal Services
ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing company and is the official process server to the U.S. Department of Justice. Docketly is a subsidiary of ABC Legal, providing appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. ABC Legal’s applications are cloud-based and compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Our solutions and digital approach ensure process server partners, law firm customers, and their clients save valuable time and resources when serving legal notices safely and with maximum compliance, control and transparency. ABC Legal is based in Seattle, WA, with more than 2,000 process servers throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in more than 75 countries. To learn more about ABC Legal, our solutions, and subsidiary company Docketly, visit www.abclegal.com.