Part III: Effectively Managing Remote & Hybrid Legal Teams
New Legal Leadership Challenges in the COVID Era: This is the final part of our three-part series – if you missed Part II, you can read it here!
In Part III, we will dive into tips to help you become adept at bringing the best out of your remote or hybrid legal team team – whether it’s your first remote rodeo or you’re an old hybrid management hand.
When working remotely, even the most tenured employees may struggle with social isolation and distractions and begin to gravitate towards siloed working. There are a number of things managers can do help combat this with both new and seasoned employees, including:
- Schedule frequent check-ins with team members. A communication strategy that includes regularly scheduled conversations with members of your team may provide many benefits when working remotely, including an opportunity to identify problems early; a means to ensure that employees always have a set time to be able to ask questions; a way to ensure that employees remain connected to you and to the organization; a way to communicate company updates in a more personal nature than email; and a way for you to provide your team members with feedback on their performance.
- Utilize technology. While most of us have suffered from “Zoom fatigue” during 2020 and 2021, videoconferencing remains an effective tool to build and maintain relationships when in-person meetings aren’t feasible. Unlike phone calls, video conferences provide the participants with visual cues that they aren’t able to receive over the phone, and this can help reduce the sense of isolation and can make sensitive conversations feel more personal.
- Establish remote working guidelines and manage expectations. Many employees equate remote working with flexibility, though that may not be the expectation of all managers. If you want your team members to be at their computers and available to answer their phones and respond to emails during specific hours, be sure to communicate that. On the flip side, if you don’t want your employees to feel obligated to check and respond to emails during the evenings or weekends, it’s helpful to share that information as well. Similarly, if you expect your employees to follow a certain dress code for videoconferences, either internal and/or external, remember to include that in your guidelines.
- Provide resources to allow employees to work from home comfortably and efficiently. While many employees don’t need much more than a laptop and Wi-Fi connection to work remotely, those two items alone don’t necessarily equate to a productive and ergonomic workspace. In addition to shipping a laptop to your employees, consider also providing them with an external monitor (or two); a height-adjustable desk and an ergonomic headset, keyboard, mouse and desk chair with lumbar support; a high speed printer/scanner; and proper desk lighting. If your employees have a comfortable working environment with the tools necessary to work efficiently, you may find they are more productive.
- Encourage social sharing. To encourage your team members to build and maintain relationships with one another while working remotely, consider setting up a private Instagram account for their social engagement. Doing so will provide your team members with a means to interact socially within a closed group, which may help them feel more connected to one another. If Instagram is blocked on your company’s network, you may instead consider setting up a group in Microsoft Teams that is dedicated purely to social sharing.
- Make employee retention a priority, and consider lay-offs carefully. Because of the additional challenges involved in managing remote employees, GCs managing a remote team may want to go the extra mile to ensure that key employees remain at the company. In addition, it may be wise to take a cautious approach to lay-offs and downsizing in order to avoid losing employees who may need to be replaced down the road, because the time and cost involved in managing remote employees may offset any cost savings from temporarily eliminating a position.
Once you've put in the work to hire the perfect employee, your focus will turn to integrating the employee into your team and your organization. A key component of any successful onboarding process is to ensure that new hires feel welcome at the organization, and that may require some creativity if the traditional welcome lunch or happy hour isn't feasible because the employee doesn't live in the same city as the rest of the team.
Need to hire remote or hybrid legal staff now?
A remote working environment may become the new norm for corporate legal departments in the post-pandemic era. While there are many potential upsides to this change, there will be new obstacles to navigate as well, including the challenge many GCs will face when it comes to hiring, onboarding and managing a remote workforce. By following the tips and tricks noted above you may be able to avoid some of the more common pitfalls while navigating your way through the new challenges that will come if your company transitions to a hybrid or fully remote workforce.
Legility is a legal services company providing data hosting and management, technology-enabled services, consulting, flexible legal talent, and managed review services to in-house law departments and law firms. Legility is not, and none of its affiliates are, a law firm and does not provide legal advice as part of its services and nothing contained herein should be construed as such.