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  • Writer's pictureLisa Dawson


Updated: Apr 24, 2020

By Lisa Dawson, April 23, 2020

Working from home does not suit everyone. What do you as the Employer (ER) about requiring Employees (EE) to work from home?

This checklist is for operational leadership and for firms who have already assessed what tasks and what EEs are necessary to business continuity. Your business weaknesses (cash flow, under performers, inefficient workflow, toxic culture…) magnify during this challenging time. What was disfunctional before will be now. The checklist does not have all the answers but, does ask you to think about relevant and necessary questions for your firm to consider. Business development is not included as each practice area will lend itself to different tactics and opportunities.

Create a flexible approach to your work from home policy – adjust it to reflect the current reality - listen to your EEs.

Above all, proceed knowing your rights as an ER and EE:

Not a fit for everyone.

What to do when there is no choice?

Are your employees self-motivated and disciplined? What can the Firm do to provide motivation and help those who lack discipline? Be curious. Ask your EEs about what works and what doesn’t when working from home to show you care.

☐ Are some employees subject to supervision? How will they be supervised?

☐ Ensure frequent, helpful, transparent, communication touch points for groups of staff and individuals. Ask how they are doing?

☐ Expect emotion responses and be prepared how to deal with them effectively.

☐ Assess the role of each employee. Does face-to-face interaction at any point in their workflow. Could email, phone, chat, or video conference suffice?

☐ Ensure the team is working towards something and they can see their own contribution to the collective effort.

☐ Establish remote work expectations and procedures with staff: which virtual communication channels to use, how deliverables will be submitted, and how meetings will take place. Let clients know far ahead of time that any in-person meetings may need to be moved to video (emphasize the why and how).

Workspace and Workforce Essentials

An employer has responsibilities under occupational health and safety legislation to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, wherever that is.

☐ ERs may be able to use vacation days, sick days, banked overtime or access unpaid sick leave protection pursuant to provisional legislation in Ontario and British Columbia. Is your firm is clear about how to navigate compensation?

☐ ERs are not required to pay EEs who have contracted COVID-19 or are in quarantine. Similarly, if the ER has requested that an EE self-quarantine or has asked EEs to go on leave as a result of COVID-19, ERs are not necessarily required to continue to pay their EEs.

☐ If the ER has the ability to allow EEs to work remotely and EEs are able to continue to perform their usual duties, then the EEs are entitled to their usual pay and benefits. Has your firm assessed its worker needs and Govt support options in order to determine what the new workforce looks like?

☐ Encourage EEs to find a room, separated if possible, from the rest of the house.

☐ Set up a remote-access VPN or cloud-based practice management solution to get secure access to all your firm data and files.

☐ Can the current phone lines be transferred to the employee’s cell or other line?

☐ Set up a chat and collaboration software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams for easy collaboration.

☐ Clearly define ergonomics for the home (lighting, seating, etc).

☐ Move in-person meetings with staff and clients to free Zoom or Google Hangouts video conferencing.

☐ Will the EE be logging in remotely? Develop and demand secure password, use and shut down protocol.

☐ What office supplies will be required? Computer/Printer/Scanner/paper Will this be EE provided or ER?

Making it Work/Keep a pulse on productivity

☐ Move in-person meetings with EEs and clients to Zoom, Jitsi, Go To Meeting, Team Viewer or another video conferencing app.

☐ Provide guidance for EEs around taking breaks, keeping schedule and switch off at the end of the day.

☐ Ask your team to start recording their time daily. This gives you peace of mind that the business is moving forward and helps your team capture more time contemporaneously.

☐ If you have non-billable staff and want to keep track of their productivity, require this staff to log calls and tasks performed daily. This ensures team members work on the most prioritized tasks and projects.

☐ Make sure that your EEs retain the same standards for time and billing as you help clients remotely.

☐ Will any EE require a virtual receptionist to answer calls in order to mitigate interruptions?

☐ Opportunity is ripe for phishing and malware attacks, capitalizing on the events of COVID-19. Now more than ever, your firm needs cybersecurity. Invest is strong reporting tools and use an IT professional.

Stay in touch with your clients without being in-person

☐ Don’t cancel meetings. Instead, transition meetings and conversations to phone or video. This allows you to maintain your relationships with your clients while minimizing disruption.

☐ Send clients secure emails or text reminders about upcoming trial dates, mediation, or document signing.

☐ Enable clients to pay online with a credit card, eTransfer or eCheck. They will appreciate the convenience and may be looking to finance your services with a credit card instead of paying directly from their bank account.

☐ Send clients secure emails or text reminders about upcoming trial dates, mediation, or document signing.

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