What is your biggest frustration about working remotely? Recently, we asked a group of over 250 lawyers, paralegals and assistants about their most difficult remote work challenges. It all boils down to one thing: communication.
Remote Work Challenges for Teams
Does this sound familiar? Here are the top five themes that emerge when people talk about the difficulties of working together when they’re working remotely:
- People don’t know who is working on what. This makes it harder for them to supervise, keep matters on track, and even assign work to people who have the capacity to take on more work. The lack of visibility into work and workflow leaves people feeling like they are operating in a vacuum, which leads to theme number two:
- People feel disconnected and isolated. Not only does the isolation affect their quality of work, but it’s hard on their mental health as well.
- It is hard to consult with other members of the firm. People miss the collegiality and casual meetings that enable them to get answers to questions, share opinions and best practices, and catch up on their practice areas’ latest developments.
- It is much harder to get clear instructions. People can’t follow up easily for clarification or answers to particular problems.
- Overall, people struggle with a lack of structure and clarity, and this makes it harder to get their work done.
One common element ties all these together: communication. Ineffective or insufficient communication causes many of the frustrations facing remote teams.
A Quick Communications Reset
When you sense your team isn’t working effectively, you’ll probably find a breakdown in communication somewhere along the way. When this happens, try this quick reset:
- Ensure everyone understands what they have to do.
- Communicate tasks and deadlines clearly.
- Relay any changes in expectations or timelines promptly to the whole team.
- Define relationships clearly and ensure everyone knows who reports to whom.
- Communicate the impact of each team member’s work on the big picture.
- Reiterate the client’s objectives (particularly if they’ve changed).
- Affirm that all team members are invested in your client’s success.
Clear communication is the best way to overcome many of the challenges that undermine your team’s ability to work effectively together, despite working apart.
Karen Dunn Skinner and David Skinner believe every lawyer deserves a successful practice and the time to enjoy that success. To that end, they help lawyers and legal professionals build more efficient, productive and profitable practices. They’re the co-founders of Gimbal Lean Practice Management Advisors and lawyers with over 20 years’ experience each in Canada and Europe. Together, they’re the exclusive Global Advisors on Legal Process Improvement to the International Institute of Legal Project Management. They write and speak regularly, facilitate legal process improvement projects across North America, and have taught Gimbal’s LeanLegal® approach to thousands of legal professionals.
For a deeper dive into ways to improve how you manage remote teams, sign up for David and Karen Skinner’s 60-minute webinar “Working Together When You’re Working Apart.”
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