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The Top 10 Ways to Keep Productivity High When Working From Home

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

As I write this, COVID-19 is closing theatres, shops and restaurants, and many businesses, including law firms, who face the dilemma of whether to encourage staff to work from home or to keep their office doors open until government guidelines give a firm directive.

Of course, remote working is not always possible – millions of people in the UK have customer-facing roles, where their presence at work is necessary for their job.

But with the number of people in the UK who work from home jumping from 884,000 ten years ago to a current figure of over 1.54 million, remote working is on the rise.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak at the end of 2019, many working practices have changed. Google, Amazon and Apple were among the first to implement remote working to combat the spread of the virus, and travel bans on non-essential trips have meant that international business meetings have been dramatically reduced.

If you have been advised by your law firm to work from home, it can be easy for productivity to slip. From the ironing pile, your significant other has left you because "you're at home all day" to the dog looking at you expectantly and requiring extra walks, it can be challenging to stay focused.

I'm often asked by candidates how to make the most of remote working to get the best results: how to manage their time and enjoy the plus sides of working remotely (fewer interruptions!). So, here are my top ten ways to stay motivated and keep your productivity high, whether you are working remotely permanently, or temporarily during the current pandemic.

 

1. Allocate a Workspace

To clarify the boundaries between home and work, it's essential to set up a specific workspace. If you can, allocate a spare room for this purpose as this will give you a visual reminder of when you are 'at work'. Having a physical door, you can shut will also minimise potential interruptions from other family members.

However, if you do not have extra space, then a corner of another room can become your 'office'. Just ensure that paperwork doesn't spill into other areas and that when you close your laptop at the end of the day, you leave that space as you would leave a physical office.

 

2. Be Clear on Boundaries

Let your family know when you will be working and when you're free, so you don't have distractions, and be firm with them that you are not to be interrupted during your work hours.

 

3. Dress for the Occasion

To maintain a professional approach, it's essential to shower and dress each day as you would normally. You don't have to wear a fitted suit when working remotely (unless you are planning a client video call), and smart-casual, comfortable clothes will put you in the 'zone' and send the right messages to your brain that you are in work-mode.

 

4. Write Your To-Do List

Structure your day, as you would in the office. Allocate times for research, writing reports and contacting clients. If you would typically do specific tasks on certain days, continue to do so as this will help add structure and define the days, so they don't start to merge into one.

 

5. Map Your Productivity Levels

You will notice when you have times of high productivity, and when that dips slightly (for most people, this is mid-afternoon). If you start to find you have much more mental energy earlier in the day, you can start working on more complicated cases earlier, leaving time for routine admin later on when your energy is lower.

Conversely, if you get your best work done later in the day, adjust your schedule. Just make sure that contact times with senior partners, colleagues and clients is convenient for all concerned – this should take place during established working hours.

 

6. Add a Background

If you are used to a busy, bustling law firm, it can be very quiet working alone. Consider some soft background music for company – it helps that too-quiet feeling and can boost your concentration levels. You can access specific concentration music via YouTube or put some classical music or Radio 4 on at low volume.

 

7. Schedule Breaks

It's good to have a break from the screen and get some downtime for your brain too. So, aim to have lunch in another room away from your office space. And go outdoors - even for a quick five minutes to get some fresh air and lower stress levels.

 

8. Check In to The Office

Keep in touch with your senior partner or manager and colleagues regularly – ideally daily. This allows you to update them with what you're working on, discuss priorities and schedules, and remind yourself that you are still working as part of a team. This is particularly important if you are unused to remote working, as feelings of isolation can set in once the initial novelty has worn off.

 

9. Sign Off

As part of your schedule, have a definitive sign off time. That means, at the end of your workday, you close your laptop, turn off your business mobile and other equipment, and leave your office space. Follow this procedure to avoid the temptation to 'just finish that project', or just do 'another five minutes' on a case. Remember, you need to keep your work and home life separate.

 

10. Enjoy Your Down-Time

From exercising to getting enough sleep, it's critical to maintain a routine that keeps you energised and focused. It's unlikely you would stay up till 2 am watching tv during a typical work week, so don't be tempted to do so just because you're working remotely.

Spend your free time doing something you enjoy with family and friends, where possible. If the current pandemic makes that challenging, remember to keep in touch virtually via Facebook, Messaging, WhatsUp, Skype, or whichever platform you prefer. From holding virtual cocktails on a Friday evening to a group chat – enjoying your downtime will help you maintain high productivity while you are working remotely.

 

Some final thoughts

For many legal professionals, working from home has its challenges but remember to think about the positives – from uninterrupted quiet to get on and the ability to set your own schedule, to avoiding the commute and even saving money by not having to buy lunch every day!

A good plan of action and a clear distinction between working and home life will help set you up for successful – and enjoyable – remote working.

 

Next Steps

If you're reading this article because you are looking to develop your legal team, please call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121.

 

Thanks 

Lynn

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers. 

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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