“Can litigation support work be done from home effectively?”
I received this question in my email inbox in response to my email: What Would You Ask?. It's an interesting question.
I know that there are differences of opinion about this topic. There are some management teams that embrace it and others that adamantly despise it. In my opinion, the approval or disapproval from management can depend on the individuals on the management team and their own personality traits, their own work preferences and frankly it can boil down to their own trust issues. I will also mention that unfortunately one bad egg can ruin it for everyone else.
I have been on both sides of this, I've been the manager supervising team members that work from home and I've also been the employee working from home.
Here are my thoughts on this topic:
1. People work differently. Some prefer noisy surroundings, some prefer peace and quiet (that's me). Some people are most productive in an office, a location separate from their home and personal life. Others are most productive without the interruptions of people stopping by your office, calling you on the phone or stopping you in the hallway. You can't put a person into a box and expect them to be productive. I think it depends on the person whether working remotely will be successful.
2. As a manager of a new team member, I believe enough time must pass before working remotely is permitted. Trust must be earned first. Work ethic must be proved first. Work habits must be observed first. As I said above, it depends on the person whether they are a good candidate to work remotely.
3. Will the attorneys (your clients) care that you're not in the office? Will there be a perception (right or wrong) that litigation support services belong in the office with the attorneys? This has so many variables. If the attorneys occasionally work remotely too, they might not have a problem with it. It might depend on how responsive you are when working remotely. If the attorneys don't feel any difference and your response time is just as quick, it might work out fine. I have had both scenarios — there have been attorneys that don't care where you are as long as the work is getting done and there are attorneys that have a double standard in that they can work remotely, but you can't. Take a look at the culture of the firm as well as the attorneys you support most of the time.
4. Does it matter whether you are a litigation support analyst or a litigation support project manager? Project managers are more client facing so they might be expected to be in the office more so. Analysts do a lot of work behind the scenes. Analyst work can also be very tedious — working remotely can be a positive environment for this type of work.
5. Should you avoid working remotely on a day that you have meetings scheduled? I believe it is much better to attend meetings in person. For many reasons, attending meetings remotely via phone can be a bad idea and not work very well.
6. Are you expecting any hard drives to be delivered to the office or do you need to prepare a production to go out the door? Do you have a team mate or another co-worker that can plug in the hard drive so you can access it remotely? If you're preparing a production, you can get it all prepared and get assistance from a co-worker to burn it to disk or copy it to a hard drive. Is that more trouble than it's worth? Attorneys are nervous on production days. They want to meet the deadline and it may be perceived in a negative way if you are not in the office taking care of the production deadline.
7. What about saving precious productive time by not dealing with a commute? I can get 3 more hours of work done if I don't commute to and from the office. Does management ever think about that? As a manager, I certainly did, especially when our workload was really heavy.
8. This is my opinion and you may disagree. I believe that when you decide to work remotely on a particular day, it means that the block of work hours should be taken as seriously as if you went into the office. The day should not be shared with taking care of small children, doing chores or running errands. You should not “go quiet” from the perspective of co-workers in the office. Stay in touch with everyone, via instant messaging, email or phone. When I work remotely, I get so much more work done because I start earlier in the morning (no commute to my home office) and I work more productively without “typical office interruptions”. Personally, I have trouble on some days getting away from my computer to eat something or go to the bathroom. Of course, I have many days at the office like that too. Ha!
In summary, I think that being productive in litigation support while working remotely can depend on the traits of the individual, the culture of the office and the tasks for the day.
I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are on this topic. Please share in the comment area below.
[callout]It's not too late. If you want to submit two questions in response to my email request (see link in first paragraph above), shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I may include the answer in a future article.[/callout]