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When I tell others that our team lives and works in various countries and states, some people get excited. I think they start to imagine themselves working on a beach in Thailand.
The image of a beach umbrella, a lounge chair, and you reclining with your laptop balanced perfectly and your earbuds inserted might be exactly what you get.
But it might also look more like you sitting in the back of a coffee shop, far from the window, trying to tune out the annoying woman talking about her foot massage.
If you’re ready to move toward having a remote team, you should take these steps to get ready. Regardless of whether you make the move, these steps will improve your business and make your operations function more smoothly and profitably.
1. Hire with remote working in mind.
Some people like working remotely. Surprisingly, to me anyway, some people don’t. Having co-workers around is really important to certain personality types. They don’t want to fly solo. They don’t like the idea of communicating via videoconference and phone. They need face-to-face interaction. Whatever.
If you’re going to build a remote team, then you ought to factor that into your hiring decisions. You should interview on that topic and examine the work history of the candidates you interview with an eye toward having them work away from the office.
2. Go paperless.
It’s hard for me to imagine that many firms still use paper, but they do. You are not alone. Paper dominates many, many law offices.
However, if you want to move your team away from the office, then it’s essential that you get rid of the paper. You need a smooth workflow where your documents get entered into a system and move to the right people. The documents need to be trackable, discoverable, and accessible to anyone from anywhere. We use NetDocuments to store our documents and make them instantly available to clients.
Going paperless is valuable, regardless of whether your team works remotely or in the office. You’ll dramatically reduce your costs by improving your efficiency. Being able to quickly locate documents is the primary advantage of a paperless system. Of course, there are a multitude of other benefits as well.
3. Switch to cloud-based technology.
In the old days, we accessed our servers remotely via various systems. Today, with cloud-based technology, we all access our data via a web browser. Everyone is using the same system in the same way. Where we are when we log in becomes irrelevant. The technology is the same for all users, remote or not, and that makes management of the technology dramatically easier.
Getting rid of servers, firewalls, remote access technology, etc. dramatically reduces cost, hassle, and management of your IT team. If you haven’t already transitioned to the cloud, then it’s time, regardless of whether you’re dreaming of beaches. You don’t need a server room filled with old machines and phone systems. Today, everything can live in the cloud, and that’s where your data ought to live.
4. Compensate your people for results, not effort.
Compensation systems based on showing up and spending time in the office were never a good idea. Having your team work remotely places special emphasis on the need for a compensation system based on output. You’re not going to know what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, or how they’re getting it done, so you need to build a system that rewards results.
A results-oriented compensation system is easy for lawyers. You’ll find a way to reward them for generating revenues or completing projects. Your practice area will help you create a system that works for you, your clients, and your attorneys.
It’s more challenging to find a way to address compensation for some other members of your team. It’s tricky to find ways to measure their productivity and incentivize them for results. When you find yourself struggling with developing a compensation system for a particular position, it’s probably worth considering whether you really need that position within your organization. Maybe the message you’re receiving is that you’ve found a position worth eliminating or outsourcing. Ask yourself why you can’t like the work with profit. There’s something wrong with that picture.
5. Live where you do your best work.
Maybe that beach on Koh Lanta is a perfect spot for you to work. But maybe you’re distracted by the thongs and need to find a different place to rest your MacBook. You need to find a productive place to work that’s also enjoyable to you. Being able to work remotely is a huge opportunity. However, you need to be careful not to waste it by being unproductive and distracted.
I get a tremendous amount of work done in certain situations and settings. For instance, oddly, I get lots done in airport lounges. I’m also very productive when I have a routine that doesn’t change for weeks at a time. I fall into a pattern of getting things done when I can count on getting up at a certain time, moving to a designated work spot, and having reliable Internet.
You’re going to discover a place and system that work for you. As you figure it out, you’ll observe that certain approaches are more or less effective for your personality and temperament. Figure out what helps you maximize your productivity, and take advantage of the flexibility that remote work allows. Be where you need to be, and use it to up your game.
6. Let go.
Control freaks don’t do well with managing remote teams. You’re not going to be comfortable with how things are going unless you’re willing to let your people figure out their own way of working. You’ve got to be willing to let go, or you’re going to drive yourself nuts. While it sounds like a worthy goal, letting go isn’t for everyone. Some lawyers just aren’t comfortable when they literally can’t keep their fingers on the pulse.
Remote teams are increasingly common in the working world. The concept is gaining popularity in the legal arena. The lessons being learned by companies using remote employees transfer well to all teams, remote or not. Take what they’re learning and apply it to your business. It’ll help you grow and strengthen your practice. See you on the beach.