It has taken a global pandemic for remote work to become part of our business and cultural mainstream as an accepted form of meeting the requirements of employment. It has not always been so. In decades past, it was called “working from home” or maintaining a “home office.” Lawyers who utilized these were generally not viewed as serious professionals. When I first went out of my own, I practiced for about a year in my home office and I was the recipient of the barely-contained contempt my arrangement produced in colleagues.
Today, working from home has morphed into remote work, a sanitized and modernized practice that men and women have embraced. The transformation – indisputably necessitated by the realities of the pandemic – appears to be nothing more than a traverse around the mountain from the same elevation because it is the same concept: working from a home office. And now that both men and women have taken advantage of it, it should not escape anyone that the transformation is thick with irony.
The irony of this transformation aside, there are positive effects of remote work. Everyone has their own list of likes and dislikes, so this is mine:
- Acceptance of the realities of home and family life as part of our business framework. Dogs barking, children crying or playing, the sounds of washing machines and dryers – these are common sounds in most homes and professional life has not come to a grinding halt because of their presence in video conferences;
- The convenience and potential cost saving of eliminating a daily commute, creating the opportunity for more time with family and personal time.
- Taking advantage of the most productive times for lawyers and staff. Not everyone works at their peak from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and remote work creates the possibility of maximizing individual productivity.
- The characteristic of working in an office that is the most difficult to reproduce remotely is collaboration. Whether informal or in structured meetings, in-person collaboration is very important in our office and it is what I missed the most in the early months of the pandemic when we worked remotely from home.