More and more employers are affording their employees the ability to work from home or “remotely” as it is sometimes called. Studies show pretty convincingly that not only does the flexibility to work from home increase employee productivity and morale, it also heightens the company’s ability to attract and retain key talent. It can also save the company money in terms of reduced office space needs and other costs such as parking, utilities, etc. While working from home is growing, it is not growing as quickly at in-house legal departments. A lot of that has to do with one primary concern: “If I cannot see them, how do I know they are really working?” There are other issues, such as meetings, client interaction, department interaction, and so forth but the number one reason for not making work-from-home (“WFH”) an option for in-house lawyers boils down to trust.
As a former General Counsel I will be first to raise my hand and say that I was very reluctant when we first started allowing our in-house lawyers to work from home up to two days a week. It just felt “off” to me but I made a decision to put my reservations aside and focus on coming up with a plan that would either work out to the benefit of both the company and the employee, or would prove that WFH wasn’t really for us. I can report that it absolutely worked out fine for us both in terms of enhanced productivity and in terms of having a materially different “benefit” that made working in our legal department even more attractive, especially with respect to keeping existing talent and attracting new talent. That’s not to say that it was without bumps, we had them. And for some folks we needed to alter or revoke the privilege as it just didn’t work out in those cases. This edition of Ten Things tackles the question of whether work from home can work for your legal department and the things you need to do to ensure that any WFH policy works for everyone. While I am focusing on WFH, these same rules apply generally for managers and employees working a remote offices, i.e., offices away from headquarters.