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Paralegals at Home: Tips for Healthy Remote Work Habits

Posted By Justin Fromke, Friday, May 8, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 7, 2020

Never in our lifetime have we experienced what we are experiencing right now concerning the current pandemic.  I am sure you have read stories and maybe even heard your grandparents or great-grandparents talk about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.  But more than likely you have never experienced the complete turmoil our society and economy has been thrust into by the coronavirus, or COVID-19, viral pandemic.  And definitely our legal industry has never experienced such a situation before.  Firms and corporate legal departments literally overnight had to scramble to provide resources for their employees to either work in shifts in the office so as to reduce the number of people in a confined space or to work exclusively remotely from their homes.  Those of us who were consigned to work from home were thrust into an environment typically not conducive to a normal working situation.  I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “How do I work from home?”  When I was thrust into working from home, I literally had approximately 30 minutes to think and react.  One day I was in the office, the next day I was not.  I gathered up my work laptop, docking station, and some documents and took a few personal items and left the building.  I was unsure what the future held but was more concerned with working from home.  I am the type of person who enjoys the social interaction of my coworkers, so how was I going to work all alone with only my pet to keep me company?  How do I communicate with my co-workers and conduct meetings?  How do I even set up my home office?  We all were faced with these questions.  My goal here is to provide you with some practical tips in creating a home office, being the most productive, and having a healthy perspective while working from home.

 

First, let’s talk about setting up your home office.  As most of us have experienced, our home office environment is more than lacking or, let’s be honest, virtually non-existent.  Living the single life has afforded me the luxury of using my additional bedroom as a home office, complete with desk, Mac computer, and some office supplies.  But not everyone is as lucky.  The first thing you have to do is evaluate your home. Do you have a spare bedroom or craft room? Does it have a desk or work table?  You need a comfortable space from which to conduct your work.  If you don’t have one, think creatively.  Even using concrete blocks as a base and an old door as a desktop is better than nothing.  Also, having a separate room with a desk can afford you space to close off when your spouse and/or children are being too loud when you have to concentrate or when you have to conduct a video conference call.  For me, the biggest challenge was making room for my work laptop and spare computer monitor to set on my desk already containing my personal Mac computer and podcast equipment.  I improvised by adding a small portable table at the end of desk for my spare monitor and shifted other equipment around to make room.  While my home workspace is not ideal, it is functional and will see me through this temporary situation.  If you don’t have a spare room to function as your home office, consider setting up a space at the dining room table or countertop in your laundry room.  Home workspace real estate may be a hot commodity with your spouse and children also at home, so make sure when you set up your space you consider the needs of your new “co-workers” who will also be clamoring for the same thing.  The ultimate goal is to create a space you can go to when it’s time to work. 

 

After you have evaluated your home and created a functional workspace, make sure you have included tools you use in your office to assist you.  Did you bring home physical files?  Do you need to scan files and upload to your system?  If so, do you have a scanner or multi-function home printer?  Consider all the necessary physical tools you use in your daily work to assist you and help you remain as productive in your home office as you were in your law office.

 

Second, make sure you focus on work during work hours.  For me, I established right away I would continue to work my normal schedule; 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with my normal lunch scheduled around noon.  Creating a sense of normalcy in the midst of an abnormal period will help you stay focused and productive.  When I’m at home, I see about 100 different projects I could be working on—from laundry to closet organization to binge watching my favorite Netflix series.  The goal is not to succumb to those distractions.  Get up in the morning at your normal time and do your normal morning routine.  Shower, make your bed, eat a healthy breakfast, fix your hair, and get dressed.  Unless you are going to have a Zoom call with the local judge, you don’t need to wear your typical work attire.  However, I do recommend you get dressed in comfortable clothes.  I may be crazy, but I even put on shoes!  For me, getting up and keeping to a morning ritual helps me feel like I am getting ready for work and heading to “the office.”  If you have kids and a spouse at home with you, ask them to allow you to work uninterrupted as long as possible.  Young children won’t necessarily understand why you can’t stop what you’re doing all the time and play with them.  To get the most out of your workday while spending time with your family, work in short bursts and take mini-breaks to spend with your family, maybe playing a round of cards or taking a walk around the block.  Then get back to work.  While it may not be ideal, it will provide you with an opportunity to be as productive as possible working, while being able to provide time with your family so they don’t feel completely neglected.  

 

Finally, keep a healthy perspective in all of this.  The amount of stress we all have come under is immense.  It’s more important now than ever before to make sure you take care of your body, mind, and soul.  For those of us who are single and live alone, isolation can be a dangerous thing.  Make sure you make time to connect with friends and family, adhering to social distancing mandates, of course.  If you cannot physically be with your friends, consider setting up a Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangout video call once a week.  Make it a “virtual happy hour”!  Designate a time for everyone to call in via video conferencing and have your favorite snack and beverage at hand and just talk with each other and catch up.  If you’re a person of faith, check to see if your church or synagogue is conducting daily or weekly services via the web and tune in.  Also, be sure to stay active.  If you used to go to the gym, look for exercises and gym classes via the web.  Get outside when the weather is nice and take walks through your neighborhood.  The goal is to ensure you are taking care of the whole you!

 

Remember, while this will not last forever, it’s important to make sure you try to maintain a level of normalcy in the midst of an abnormal world.  Stay safe and stay healthy!

 

 

-post by Carl Morrison, ACP, RP, PP-SC, AACP

 

Carl Morrison, ACP, RP, PP-SC, AACP, is a Manager of Legal Services for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.  Carl is also the host of The Paralegal Voice on Legal Talk Network.  To hear his recent podcast concerning paralegals working from home, click on the following link: https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/paralegal-voice/2020/03/paralegals-at-home-carls-tips-for-healthy-remote-work-habits/

Tags:  COVID-19  docket  paralegal 

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