In response to current events, many businesses are quickly implementing temporary remote work policies for their employees, requiring a reassessment of corporate operations, policies, and procedures. Although the work-from-home movement has been steadily gaining steam in recent years, there are plenty of organizations that are unprepared for this major change.
Maintaining business continuity when away from the office is especially important for your in-house legal team. Tasked with the responsibility of staying on top of the details in your company’s legal documents, implementing and refining corporate policy, and ensuring critical corporate communications comply with company protocols, your team must operate effectively at all times, especially when business operations require quick modification.
But beyond business operations, this time of uncertainty also has a real human impact on individuals. The sudden transition to a remote environment can leave employees feeling unclear about priorities and expectations, and disconnected from colleagues and company culture. The good news is that with a little planning, communication, and a few simple tools, your team can feel some sense of normalcy when away from the office.
Here are three ways to help your legal team succeed in a remote work environment.
1. Outline Expectations for the Transition
When a company is going through a significant transition that impacts employees across the organization, senior leaders need to ensure there is alignment and fully commit to the decisions that have been made.
Using these guidelines, you can empower your teams to succeed while working from home:
Create a plan: The leadership team must develop a strategy to deliver consistent messaging so all teams know what to expect during the transition.
Communicate early and often: Keep your employees informed so everyone feels like they’re working to accomplish the same goal.
Set individual expectations: Let each member of your team know how they should be working and what is expected from them, including clear direction on schedules, project timelines, and deliverables.
2. Strengthen Communication and Engagement
One of the biggest challenges your team faces when making the switch to working remotely is the disruption to company culture. Without in-person interactions, it’s imperative your employees have the channels in place to connect and communicate effectively.
Some communication strategies to consider include:
Set Up the Appropriate Communication Channels: Team messaging and video conferencing solutions allow employees to stay connected while strengthening relationships.
Provide Frequent Updates: Regular communication about news and events affecting your employees and your business can help relieve anxiety that could distract your team and impact their ability to effectively complete their duties.
Set Regular Video Meetings: While not everyone requires face-to-face interaction to feel like they are part of a team, it does help everyone remember that regardless of location, they have colleagues who are accessible and working towards the same goals.
Share Accomplishments: Especially when dealing with an irregular work environment, acknowledging individuals for their achievements can have a positive impact on morale.
Constant communication in all forms is key for teams making the switch to a remote work environment.
3. Adopt Software That Supports Remote Work
Your legal team’s existing systems and processes may not have been designed to support a remote style of working. To ensure business continuity, evaluate your most heavily-used solutions and adopt new cloud-based options where necessary so important tools and information are accessible from anywhere.
Here are three types of online systems that can help your legal team operate efficiently away from the office:
1. General Cloud-based Business Solutions: Your team needs access to online versions of programs that support basic day-to-day business operations, including things like word processing and spreadsheets. These solutions are often free and can be set up quickly and easily.
2. Specific Solutions Designed for Legal Teams: In addition to basic business software, there are a variety of cloud-based solutions available designed to address the unique needs of legal teams. These solutions run the gamut and can add varying levels of efficiency to your team’s process, which is especially important when employees are in disparate locations. Time and resources are likely limited during the transition, so start by prioritizing what you need immediately to continue conducting essential business.
Here are two solutions that are good places to start.
Cloud-based Document Management Systems: These provide a secure way to store and share critical business files, including invoices, memos, strategic plans, and other documents your team will need to access frequently when working remotely.
Contract Management Software: When working from various locations, you and your team still need the ability to perform essential legal department functions. This includes staying on top of your contractual obligations, which requires access to your entire contract portfolio. Contract management software provides you with a centralized repository so any agreement can be located in seconds from almost anywhere.
3. Electronic Signature to Execute New Agreements: Even during difficult times, business must go on. Most people no longer have fax machines and scanners at home, so the ability to execute contracts digitally becomes even more of a necessity. Electronic signature has become a standard in the business world and is essential for legal teams - and departments across an organization - that need to execute contracts efficiently.
At ContractWorks, we’ve temporarily shifted our team to a remote work environment in response to national and global recommendations. Fortunately, we are maintaining business continuity because we have chosen to implement many of the processes, systems, and strategies outlined in this article. If there's anything we can do to help you and your team during this challenging time, please don't hesitate to reach out.