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Professional Development

Returning to the Office Post-Pandemic: How to Be Your Best Self-Advocate

Sara Gold

Returning to the Office Post-Pandemic: How to Be Your Best Self-Advocate
franckreporter via iStock

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Costco once again offers free samples, courthouses are open for in-person appearances, and many younger lawyers who were once working from home are now back in their regular offices. It sounds like things are back to normal, right? Well, sort of.

For many of us, returning to the office post-pandemic can feel like a mixed blessing. The benefits of working alongside others in an office, providing opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie, might be somewhat offset by rotating employee schedules or the lingering unease of being around other people. Some of us may be juggling bigger-than-usual caseloads due to work pileup during the pandemic or reduced staff due to COVID-19–related layoffs. While some of us welcome the return to the office as a relief from the distractions at home, others mourn having to sacrifice sweatpants for business suits and a home office for a challenging commute.

Those of us who are back in the office are readjusting in our own ways to the new normal of office life. Given the fast and stressful pace at any workplace, younger lawyers may be saddled with a more significant load than ever before. Younger lawyers must learn to advocate for their personal and professional needs to address the anxieties of returning to the office post-pandemic.

Exploring Work-from-Home Options

A hybrid work-from-home schedule may be a more feasible option than before. In the ABA’s recent survey of more than 4,200 ABA members, 66 percent reported that they would prefer to work from home at least part-time during 2021 and 2022. As reported by Bloomberg Law, “Firms are aware of lawyers’ desire to have a hybrid work schedule or fully remote work option and are making decisions thoughtfully as society begins opening back up.” According to the ABA Journal, some firms across the country have already announced plans to allow lawyers and other legal staff to work from home on a part-time or full-time basis.

If working from home has advantages for your comfort, commute, or family obligations, consider discussing a hybrid schedule with your employer. The pandemic forced employers and employees both to adapt to remote work, and as a result, many employers are now more comfortable permitting flexible work options. Take advantage of this trend of flexibility and advocate for a schedule that will work best for you.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Setting a work-life boundary remains essential. Just like work from home may have created the illusion of always being on call, working in the office can add pressure to finish every item on your list before packing up for the day. Do not let work pressures tie you to your office.

If you have too many projects on your desk right now, it is ok to say no to another assignment until your load is lighter. To expedite projects, ask the preliminary questions to a lawyer friend, colleague, or supervisor sooner rather than later. You may find that one quick question asked early on will save hours of research. One piece of early guidance may also point you in the right direction in terms of format or strategy, preventing unnecessary edits and rewrites on the back end.

Ultimately, your office is a team. If you feel that you have a chronically excessive workload, talk with your supervisors and colleagues to see how they can help you in key areas. Burning out your energy, making errors in haste, or letting unfinished work pile up is not helpful to yourself or the team in the long run, so proactively ask how the team can support you and how you can support them.

Self-care remains as crucial as ever in the post-pandemic landscape, and no one knows what you need to be happy and productive better than you do. Ask for what you need, within reason, to optimize your working environment and work experience so that you can be your best and most productive self.