Working from home was once considered a luxury. It was something that most lawyers did not do with any regularity. With the advent of COVID 19 and stay-at-home orders, virtual trials and zoom meetings, it is now a privilege for most of us to go to the office, or even the courthouse, for that matter. Working from home is the new norm for skilled workers and business professionals.
There are certainly some benefits to not leaving home to go to work: no commute time, a waist-up only work wardrobe, no excess spending on coffee meetings, and fancy lunches. However, a significant downside of working from home is that there is no separation between work and home. Working from home can be great for productivity, but it can also lead to burnout and the feeling that there are no breaks.
While working from home was once viewed as a short term solution, it is now abundantly clear that it is an option that many lawyers will face for the long term. The following tips will help to maintain your sanity while you do so:
Designate A Space For Work
To help separate work from home, make a space for only work. While a home office is ideal for this, even a corner of a room with a desk or table used only for work will suffice. Remember that even though your work is now at home, client confidentiality rules still apply, and you must do all that is necessary to protect it the same way you did at the office. Having a separate space will also give the feeling that you are going somewhere else to work, away from your everyday living environment. When you’re finished with work, tidy up your space, turn off the lights, and don’t return until the next workday.
Set Work Hours
Even before COVID, many of us had difficulty shutting off our electronic devices and disconnecting from work. However, at least there was an excuse to shut down after leaving the office and traveling home. Now there is an even greater perception that lawyers should be available 24/7, especially since we never leave our home, which is now also the office. As such, it is critical to regulate your working hours. Once work has ended, as tricky as it may be, it is time to shutdown and turn-off so we can start fresh once again tomorrow.
Take Time Off
Although travel has been curtailed, it is still important to take some time off even if it’s only for a staycation. While it may feel odd to put an out-of-office reminder on email when clients already know most of us aren’t in the office at all anymore. It is necessary to do this to communicate that we are taking a well-deserved respite to recharge and return with renewed energy for our work.
Work During Work Hours
Once a workspace and work routine is established, it is time to work. Being at home carries many temptations, like loads of laundry to be done, household chores to accomplish, and easy access to snacks, but these things can wait until work time is over. More importantly, when we commingle work and household duties, we run into the problem we are trying to avoid: failing to keep work life and home life separate.
One of the benefits of going to work is the ability to interact and connect with others. Let’s face it, working from home can be lonely. However, technology allows us to retain our ability to see others and meet together. This boosts the spirits and makes us feel less isolated. It is also a reason for us to get out of our athleisure wear and put on our business clothes.
Working from home is something many of us never expected we would or could be doing for any length of time. However, having the right mindset and following the tips above can make it not only bearable but, perhaps an enjoyable, new way to work.