May 24, 2023
May 24, 2023

Remote working - Sierra Legal’s secrets to success

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As the world emerges from the pandemic, many businesses are pushing their staff to return to the office and resume pre-pandemic work routines.  Some businesses are taking a hard-line approach, mandating that employees return to the office full-time, while others are offering a more flexible approach with a mix of in-office and remote work options.

Return to office policies can vary depending on the organisation and the industry, but in our view, there are some common drivers:

  • Some employers have concerns about productivity and collaboration when employees work remotely, and may feel that they can only ensure high performance by having their staff physically present in the office.
  • Others are hesitant to fully embrace new remote work technologies and tools, either because of perceived cost or cultural barriers to change.  
  • Some businesses might be motivated to have employees return to the office in order to justify the high cost of office space and ensure they are “getting their money’s worth”.
  • For some employers, the office is seen as a critical part of their culture and way of doing business, and so returning to the office is seen as a necessary step to maintain that culture.

At Sierra Legal, we believe that people often do not fully appreciate the benefits of remote work, with many viewing it as a temporary solution that was only necessary during the pandemic.

Remote work can be a more superior working model for certain employees and roles, offering many benefits:

  • One of the obvious benefits is increased flexibility, with employees able to work from home, a coffee shop or any other location that suits their needs, as long as they have access to the necessary resources and tools.  This allows them to balance work with other aspects of their lives, such as family responsibilities or personal interests, which in turn can lead to increased job satisfaction and better mental health.  
  • Remote workers often report higher productivity due to reduced distractions and the ability to work in a comfortable environment.  
  • Remote working allows both employers and employees to save money on expenses such as commuting, office space and meals.  
  • By recruiting remote workers, employers are often able to tap into a wider pool of talent since location is no longer a barrier to employment.  
  • Remote working can have important environmental benefits, as it reduces the need for commuting and decreases the carbon footprint associated with transportation to and from the workplace.  

Whether remote work is a superior working model will depend on the needs and preferences of both employers and employees, but it is clear that remote work can be a win-win situation for all parties -  not just the employer and employee, but also the employer’s clients, the employee’s family and friends, and the wider community.

At Sierra Legal, we have physical offices in Brisbane and Melbourne that we can access and use as required.  However, we are predominantly a remote working model, with our team of lawyers having worked remotely for over 13 years (way before remote work became a “thing”).  We have lawyers in Brisbane, Newcastle, Melbourne and even Cape Town, South Africa!  

Working remotely has its challenges, but we’ve learnt the following over the years in building a highly productive and supportive remote work environment:

  1. Communication:  Effective communication is essential for any team, but it's even more important for remote teams.  They need to be able to communicate clearly and frequently, using a range of tools such as video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management software.  Regular online check-ins are critical to remote working success.  We conduct a daily online team meeting to discuss client work, provide feedback, discuss progress and address any concerns.  Regular check-ins build trust, maintain team cohesion, and foster a sense of community.
  2. Trust:  Remote teams need to trust each other to get the work done.  This means setting clear expectations and deadlines, being reliable and accountable, and being transparent about progress and challenges.  We've come together as a team to define our goals and how we'll achieve them as a remote team.  We've set clear roles and expectations and identified individual needs and goals.  Clear expectations help your team to stay focused, motivated, and working towards the same goals.  In our view, if an employer does not trust some or all of its employees, remote working simply won’t work.
  3. Collaboration:  Working remotely doesn't mean working in isolation.  Remote teams need to collaborate on projects, share ideas, and support each other.  This can be done through regular calls and online team meetings, mixed with the occasional catch up in person.  It’s essential to create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration and creativity, and as part of this, taking time to catch up and connect as colleagues and friends, rather than always talking about work matters.
  4. Technology:  Having the right technology tools is critical for remote teams.  This includes things like project management software for managing tasks and client deadlines, document automation, video conferencing tools, instant messaging, voice recognition software, simultaneous online document editing, online research tools, and cloud-based storage for sharing files.  Having the latest technology enables our team to work together seamlessly.
  5. Flexibility:  Remote teams often work across different time zones and have different schedules.  Being flexible and accommodating to individual needs can help ensure everyone stays productive and engaged.  Because working from home can blur the lines between work and personal life, we encourage our team to take breaks and time off to recharge and avoid burnout.  One of the main reasons we set up the remote working model was to ensure that, as busy lawyers, we could also be present parents, partners, and family members.  While unsociable hours are sometimes part of our job, having flexibility to pick up kids from school, work out at the gym, train for a marathon, or take time to clear our heads, helps to promote the team’s overall well-being.
  6. Culture:  A strong team culture is important for any team, but it can be harder to build in a remote environment.  Creating opportunities for team members to socialize and get to know each other (even if this is done mostly online), can help build trust and foster a sense of community.  At Sierra Legal, our strong team culture is evidenced by the fact that in over 13 years since starting the business, only 5 of our lawyers have left us (all taking up in-house roles) and they all remain good friends of the firm.  
  7. Infrastructure and support:  It is important to provide the right support and infrastructure for your team to succeed.  This includes providing the necessary equipment, training, resources and tools to enable your team to do their job effectively, as well as just giving regular and friendly support, guidance and encouragement to the team.
  8. One in, all in:  In our view, the remote working model is unlikely to work well in an environment where some people in the team are working remotely, and others are insistent on the traditional “full-time in the office” arrangement.  One of Australia’s major banks recently mandated that its senior leaders were required to work at the office 5 days a week, but that its broader workforce could work flexibly with a minimum of 2 or 3 days a week in the office.  This type of arrangement could put additional pressure on those employees working from home, the clear message being that if they want to progress in the organisation, they need to work more in the office.
  9. Having the right people:  Without stating the obvious, it’s important to have the right people in your team.  It’s essential to have employees who are self-motivated, disciplined and have good communication skills.  Remote workers need to be able to work independently without constant supervision and be able to manage their time effectively.

At Sierra Legal, we have successfully used a remote working model for over 13 years, making us experts in the field of remote work.  We understand the nuances and challenges of working remotely and have developed strategies and best practices to ensure that we are able to maintain the highest standards of productivity and quality.  With our extensive legal expertise and proven remote work experience, we are well-equipped to provide top-notch legal services to our clients, no matter where we are located.

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