How to Stay Connected to Your Colleagues While Working From Home

With a third national lockdown in force, many legal professionals are feeling increasingly distant from their colleagues. Our recent Working From Home Survey found that 22% of legal professionals think the biggest challenge of remote working is not seeing their colleagues every day. Additionally, 21% of our audience feel less productive when working from home, and 36% of these blame their reduced output on infrequent opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.

So, what steps can we take to ensure we’re staying connected to our colleagues and remaining productive while working remotely?

TotallyLegal has come up with four tips to help legal professionals stay connected to their colleagues, create opportunities for collaboration and socialise virtually when working from home. 

Tip 1: Schedule regular team meetings 

Scheduling regular team meetings is such a simple way to keep connected to colleagues during the pandemic. Before lockdown it was easy to keep track of what each member of the team was up to and get advice from colleagues through general chit-chat at our desks or in the kitchen. However, now that we’re working from home, this is a lot more difficult, so holding regular team meetings is our virtual alternative. 

It’s difficult to strike a balance between having too many meetings, which runs the risk of appearing to be micromanaging, and too few, which results in teams feeling disconnected. We advise having at least one team meeting per week to keep up meaningful communication with your team. However, many companies prefer to have more regular, perhaps shorter, check-ins throughout the week. Most of these take the form of daily morning check-ins to see how everyone is and set out objectives for the day. Keep your meetings fairly informal and ask each team member to speak for at least a couple of minutes about what they’re working on that week in order to encourage those who may be slightly shy to speak up on group calls and have their say.

Team meetings do not strictly need to consist of just running through your to-do list. Why not start the week with a general catch-up? This only needs to be 20 or 30 minutes, but it is a great way to replicate the Monday morning chit-chat about the weekend. This will help colleagues feel connected to each other without necessarily being all about work.

Tip 2: Schedule company updates 

Meetings and updates don’t have to be limited to the team level. Holding regular meetings on a larger scale is a great way to encourage interdepartmental collaboration and ensure you’re staying connected with the entire office. We suggest scheduling a company meeting on a monthly basis and encouraging members of different teams to speak for a couple of minutes about how the team is getting on, any clients they’re working with or projects they're working on, and any particular success stories. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and keep everyone informed across different business units. 

Tip 3: Utilise different messaging channels 

Instant messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are great ways to keep connected to colleagues throughout the day. Instant messaging tools aren’t just for one-to-one communication but can also be a great way to get the entire team communicating with each other on a regular basis. Most messaging channels allow you to create groups with different members, which can be named according to their specific purpose. Create a group channel for general conversations with the team. We also advise creating groups for different topics such as news, socialising (discussing weekend plans and virtual social events) and knowledge (sharing industry insights, online courses and tips). By creating various groups, you’re encouraging regular communication within the team and more varied conversation – not just quick one-to-one messages when a colleague needs help.

Tip 4: Recreate social events  

Working remotely does not strictly need to be all work and no play, and we should not lose the social aspects of work just because we’re not in an office environment. However, socialising nowadays isn’t as easy as it once was, and we’re finding that we have to be a lot more creative about how to have more fun at work. Try keeping the social traditions you had before lockdown. For example, if you finished 30 minutes earlier on a Friday afternoon to have end-of-the-week drinks, block out this time on a Friday and jump on to Zoom with your favourite drink to recreate this. 

Virtual socials are all about trying and testing different things to find out what works for you and your team. For some teams, chatting over Zoom can seem awkward and forced, especially if there are some bigger personalities in your team who dominate conversations. If this is the case, try something more structured, such as a virtual cocktail-making class, a bake off, a team quiz or even booking a stand-up. At the end of your virtual social, summarise the week, talk about what you achieved and what you didn’t, outline priorities for next week and finish off with sharing weekend plans to keep it light-hearted. 

To encourage further collaboration within the team or even across different departments, you could mix up your teams and rotate which team is in charge of leading the social each week. Encourage people to choose a theme, activity or session that interests them to keep the socials fun and interesting. 

Article contributed by TotallyLegal