August 20, 2017 Practice Points

5 Tips for Working Remotely Effectively

By Emily J. Kirk

Technology has made it possible for many of us to work outside of the four walls of our offices (for better or worse). Some of us do it sporadically, maybe while we are traveling. And some of us do it more regularly for a variety of reasons. Or some, like me, do it every day. No matter how often you do it, there are some steps you should take to ensure your work product does not suffer when you are outside of your office.

  • Have a designated space. If you work remotely, such as from home, I highly recommend having a designated space for work that is outside of the flow of other everyday "home" activities. Because I work from home regularly, I invested in creating a home office—with a door I can shut to separate myself. My home office has all the amenities that my office would have at the firm. I have a computer, monitor, filing system, phone, office supplies, etc. It required a bit of set up, but when I go to my home office, it has the same feel as any office I've had at a firm. And my family knows that when I am in my home office with the door shut, they shouldn't disturb me. Granted, this type of set up may not be practical if you work from home sporadically. But I still recommend setting up a place where you can work quietly and outside of the flow of everyday activity. Otherwise, if you are anything like me, it is easy to be distracted by the never ending list of household activities that need to be done.

  • Invest in needed technology. If you will be working remotely on a regular basis, you should consider investing in technology that will allow you to access your firm files online. There are several programs that will allow you to have remote access to your firm's databases in a secure manner. If this isn't possible, you'll need to ensure that you take the responsibility for having the necessary hard copy files with you when you work outside of your firm's office. Working remotely should never be an excuse for accomplishing less than what you would accomplish while sitting in your office at the firm.

  • Establish a routine. This is especially important if you work remotely often. You should establish a work day routine just as you would if you were commuting to work. Get up at the same time every day, get dressed, and report to work at a set time just like you otherwise would. Approach your day just as you would if you were working at your office. Set a time for lunch and breaks, and establish an ending time (because it's very easy to keep working because your work is always there).

  • Be available. If you work remotely, make sure you are at your computer during the work day. Working remotely isn't an excuse to take long lunches or run errands during the day. You need to be working, and available to answer email and phone calls. Working remotely is often a privilege, so don't ruin it for yourself (or your colleagues).

  • Ensure excellent work product. Firms are often worried that working remotely will negatively impact work product. Accordingly, even if you only occasionally work outside your main office, you have to ensure you work product is just as good—if not better—than what you would produce if you were in your firm's office. Working remotely isn't an excuse for not getting your work done, or for putting forth a mediocre final product.

Working remotely is often necessary but is always a privilege. You owe it to your firm and your clients to do it well when you do it.

Emily J. Kirk is an associate at McCuneWright LLP in St. Louis, Missouri.

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