Something for the Legal Weekend: Why homeworking lawyers are also bare, naked lawyers!
UK office tech specialists Altodigital recently conducted a survey of 200 UK lawyers and law firm staff to gain a better understand the technological and operational challenges faced by law firms when it came to remote and mobile working. Among the quirkier finding were the fact people in the legal sector are far more likely to work from home naked than people in any other sector (20%) which means that lawyers up and down the country could be brokering deals and offering client advice while partially clothed! A slightly more modest 22% preferred to stay in their dressing gown or pyjamas while working and, interestingly, men are twice more likely than women to dress in smarter ‘office wear’ while WFH.
A staggering 80% of respondents admitted to regularly skiving off when WFH, with an astonishing 30% revealing that they have skived off 100% of a working day! The top distractions were watching TV (20%), household chores (15%) and playing with children (15%), with 15% of respondents confessing to having a relaxing bath and even taking a nap while ‘on-the-clock’.
Consultant social scientist and TV psychology presenter Anjula Mutanda said: “It is important to be aware that how you dress may more subtly affect your mood and attitude, and it can be particularly challenging to maintain a professional and focused approach when working from home. You may enjoy being able to wear your dressing gown all day, but this may sub-consciously put you in the weekend relaxed mood and could slow you down.”
Technology in the legal sector also played a key role when it comes to productivity levels, with one-in-five facing server connectivity issues, slow internet (25%) and an inability to connect to a printer (5%) while WFH, showing that many business still don’t have the appropriate technologies in place to cater for effective home working. However, it’s not all negative, and the research revealed the very real benefits of WFH, including helping to support employee’s family commitments (40%), workers benefitting from improved concentration (20%) and saving on travel costs (5%).
1. Birthday suit or work suit? For some people, the ritual of getting formally dressed for work and “commuting” to their designated work space helps to psychologically put them in work mode and motivates them to get down to business. For others this is less important, and how they dress up or dress down, doesn’t adversely affect their productivity. The key is to focus on what works for you, and is in harmony with the type of work you do. However, it is important to be aware that how you dress may more subtly affect your mood and attitude, and it can be particularly challenging to maintain a professional and focused approach when working from home. You may enjoy being able to wear your dressing gown all day, but this may sub-consciously put you in the weekend relaxed mood and could slow you down. Therefore it is perhaps more crucial when alone and behind closed doors, to put in place reminders that help you to stay in work mode: whether that is wearing clothing that helps you to feel more grounded or remembering to adjust your body language when taking business calls. For instance, when taking an important call: stand or sit up and smile.
2. Neutralise your work space This is almost the opposite of what we do when we work in an office. Here, people have photos of family and other personal knick-knacks to personalise their space. However, home is already full of family photos, home comforts and all other tempting distractions like the TV. Being in the wrong space, surrounded by multiple distractions can slow you down and prevent you from staying on task. Neutralising your work space is all about creating an environment that enhances work productivity, and that helps to put you in a working frame of mind enabling you to focus. Whatever the size of your work space, dress it for work by having useful work-place materials to hand – whether it is your printer, laptop, post-its or a pin board, as this will help set the tone to work. Decluttering the home distractions, and enhancing the work-place props will help to create the best working environment for you.
3. Work smart Understand your work pattern. Doggedly sitting at your desk until 5pm, just to feel that you’ve been “at work” for eight hours can be very counterproductive. You’ll know when you’ve hit that turning point, when you move from being in the flow of work to simply twiddling your thumbs. It helps to identify when you are most productive and can achieve optimum results. For instance, do you tend to be most productive early in the morning, or early evening? Are you most distracted after 3pm? The beauty of being in charge of your own work schedule is that you can set your targets, decide what you need to achieve for the day, and work towards those goals.
4. Not Home Alone Working from home can be very isolating, and that sense of being cut off from others for long periods of time can negatively affect your mood. If you are working remotely, then build in time to make contact with your office. Whether it on an email, Skype or catching up over the phone. If possible, schedule time to go into the office every now and again to touch base. This is a physical and psychological reminder that you are still very much connected. Being self-employed can add an extra challenge. Therefore it is worth considering building up a network with others in a similar position either through making contacts in your local community or via a social media community. This can help stave off that feeling that you are on your own, and having that shared experience can be a positive and productive one.
5. Avoid the procrastination demon This begins with the words…. “I’ll just”…and you can fill in the blanks with: take a bath, vacuum the whole house, update my status on Facebook, and watch that box-set that everyone is talking about! One of the most effective ways to combat this is to make a list of what you need to accomplish and to set yourself a time goal in which to achieve it – thus creating your own work timetable. Once you achieve one task, tick it off your list and move on to the next one. This approach will help to give you structure, keep you on task and stay focused and motivated. If you are simply too distracted by the comforts of home, then consider swapping your work space for another – like the local library, helping you to focus on the task in hand.
6. Don’t be the gopher Be careful that you don’t become the ‘go to’ person for running other peoples’ errands. Working from home can sometimes be interpreted by family and friends as a licence to ask for multiple favours: from picking up the kids, doing the shopping, to taking a relative out for day. Having boundaries and being strict about your time management will prevent others from taking advantage of you.
7. The Post-Lunch Slump Sometimes known as the ‘graveyard session’ this can affect everyone no matter how motivated they are. Getting to grips with how this affects you and what you can do about it is the key to successfully managing the slump. Studies suggest that the reason we are affected by the post-lunch slump (which hits between 1-3pm), is that this is the time of day when our energy levels, mood and alertness tend to be at their lowest, and why we may feel the very strong urge to take a nap. In order to combat this, you can boost energy levels in different ways. You may prefer to get some fresh air by taking a ten minute brisk walk or dance round your living room to your favourite tunes. Also try to avoid eating heavily at lunch as this can contribute to that sluggish feeling. Save the most mentally demanding tasks for periods when you are at your peak alertness and if possible, stick to more physical tasks that don’t require much mental effort.
8. IT meltdowns According to Altodigital’s study, more than 90% of people rely heavily on computers at work, and such heavy reliance also means that when IT glitches occur such as emails not connecting with the company server, internet problems or crashes, the reaction is more often than not an emotional one – from blind panic, anger and frustration to bursting into tears. Not surprising if you are up against it and have to meet deadlines. However, impatience can lead to poor decision making. So the key is to wait and give yourself a few minutes to see if the problem resolves itself. Take a deep breath and cool down. This gives you the opportunity to think logically and consider alternative solutions. Don’t over-personalise the event – ‘why does this always happen to me?’ This type of thinking can lead you to feel totally helpless – so don’t do it! Don’t get upset about what you can’t control. Instead look at what is possible: contact technical support, take a walk around the block, or have a break.