Firm Blog

Working From Home

Posted by: Victoria Santoro

I’m writing this looking out our western-facing window, a beautiful panorama before me. The sun is streaming through the window. Yes, I am working from home. There is a time and a place for working from home. For me, today was a day that I needed a quiet corner to focus and marshall my thoughts, getting them down on paper for an opposition that will soon be due. I have an upcoming weekend getaway with my closest friend, and, quite frankly, nothing was going to stop me from getting this work done so I could fully enjoy our annual mini-vacation. But then Monday happened, and all the emails and phone calls that come with it, not to mention that I had to be in court this morning so I got to the office late anyway.

By 2:00 PM, I was eyeballing my inbox and voicemails and getting increasingly anxious about this one important project. At 3:00 PM I packed up, walked around asking everyone if they needed anything else from me, and escaped my office for my home office. And my home office has a window! This is an aberration for me, I do not work from home often but I have a few things I think about and do before I make the decision to cut myself loose…because, as so many young professionals know, cutting yourself off from Outlook and letting voicemails pile up on your phone is no light decision.

1. Make Lists, Check ‘Em Twice…And Prioritize

After you’ve been working for a few years, you realize everything, and I mean every little thing, must be written down or it may be forgotten, afloat in all the tasks that you manage on a daily and weekly basis. My mentor taught me this, he keeps his to-do list in his shirt pocket. I may not have shirt pockets, but I have lists all over my office, both electronic and hardcopy. I live by them. And they, in turn, have made me enormously more productive and reliable.

If my small tasks are complete, and my urgent tasks are complete, and I still have one looming project that requires intense focus and concentration, I start to consider working from home for a day or a half-day.

Prioritization is key, however. If something can be done in five or ten minutes, I tell myself to get it done. If I have some lingering projects with no hard deadlines in the coming week, I put them in order of importance based on the posture of the underlying case and where we are in the litigation process. And then, if you have a time-sensitive filing due to the court on top of all of that, and the phone won’t quit ringing, and your attention is being pulled in 15 different directions, it might be time to take yourself home, find a quiet corner and get to work.

2. Check With Others

At most law firms, and indeed most companies of any kind, the team works together. We are all cogs in the same machine. Before I even thought of stepping out of the office, I checked my calendar to be sure I had no other obligations. I then walked around checking in with my colleagues to see if there was anything that needed my signature before I left, or if there were any questions that needed to be answered.

I’ve written before about the critical nature of communication with colleagues. With my co-workers, if I let them know where I’m going and why, they are on board to help me out in any way they can. Naturally, before I leave, there are 2-3 more minor tasks that need my attention, but they would have gotten delayed if I hadn’t walked around and checked.

3. Make Yourself Available

If you’re living in the stone age, with no remote access, and no smartphone, I wouldn’t recommend working from home, basically ever. Telling people you’re working outside of the office already sends a clear message that there is something that is important enough to require all of your attention. Colleagues will naturally refrain from reaching out to you as often as they would if you’re 20 feet down the hallway at the office.

But, it doesn’t mean there aren’t little emergencies happening at the office. The phone has to be on, and you have to answer it. You must still check your email somewhat frequently. I strive to never leave my co-workers hanging without an answer for too long.

4. Don’t Watch TV!

I know, it’s extremely easy to tell yourself that you’ll just leave the television on in the background. And before you know it, you’re laying on the couch eating chips. This does not help with your to-do list (see number 1, above). Before you step foot outside the office, make a deal with yourself that you’ll go straight to your workspace and get started on whatever project forced you from the office in the first place.

So here I am, a blog written and a draft of my opposition well under way. It was just one of those days, where the fullness of my to-do list and the absolute quiet of my home worked perfectly together.

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