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Navigating remote legal roles: Your refresher guide to successful home working

Written by: Anne Sadler
Published on: 7 Feb 2024

Homeworking Legal Jobs

  • The rise of remote working offered a lifeline for many legal professionals. Thousands ditched the daily commute, relaxing rigid work schedules and freeing up hours of potential productivity. Homeworking legal jobs helped parents cut childcare costs and brought balance and wellbeing into easier reach.

    However, there’s a flip side to flexible working. You might fit in a 5k before your first meeting, but the boundaries between work and home can become worryingly blurred. It’s common for early starts and extra hours to undermine your ‘me time’, along with the unhealthy habit of tackling just one more task before closing the laptop.

    When working in remote legal roles or hybrid legal jobs, it’s important to regularly reset and refresh. This blog provides current best practices and simple pointers on building an effective workspace, avoiding burnout, and dealing with return-to-office requests.

  • Follow a structured routine, from start to finish

    Despite the long hours of traditional onsite legal roles, travelling to and from the office helps create a clear line between the professional and personal portions of your day. With work-from-home legal jobs, this black-and-white separation can quickly become a grey area. Starting on time, taking regular breaks, and promptly logging off can preserve a better work/life balance.

    • Make the most of your mornings: For maximum productivity and positivity, resist opening your laptop or reading work emails until you’ve focused on yourself and your family. Head to the gym, do the school run, or read the paper to get in the right headspace for the day ahead.

    • Sharpen your schedule: If you’re a seasoned homeworker, review your daily timetable and consider what’s slipped since you started. Do you get up, get dressed, have breakfast, and start work at the same time each day? Can you wrap up punctually and enjoy your evening without worrying about work? If not, look for ways to tighten your timings, reduce procrastination, and lighten heavy workloads.

    • Step away from the screen: For every hour or two of solid work you do, take 10-15 minutes to disconnect. It’s also a good idea to step outside at lunchtime. Even a short walk away from your work environment can improve focus and prevent the 3pm dip.

  • Create a healthy home workspace

    The physical set-up of your home office is key to avoiding health issues like back and neck pain. Ideally, you’ll work from a study, personal office, or other quiet space with a desk, supportive chair, and all the tech and materials required for legal remote jobs. Here’s how to make the most of them:

    • Invest in quality equipment: A reliable desk and office chair should top your list when optimising your home office. Choose a desk that meets the recommended work height or features adjustable legs to keep your feet and forearms in a comfortable position. Similarly, seek out a supportive office chair that protects your posture for the long term.

    • Purchase a monitor: Connecting a monitor to your laptop helps avoid neck strain, encouraging you to look straight ahead rather than down at your screen. If you don’t have room for a monitor, a laptop stand is a solid alternative.

    • Step away from the screen: For every hour or two of solid work you do, take 10-15 minutes to disconnect. It’s also a good idea to step outside at lunchtime. Even a short walk away from your work environment can improve focus and prevent the 3pm dip.

    • Ask your employer for help: Many companies supply office equipment for their employees, so check with your line manager or HR department before setting up your workspace.

  • Check in with colleagues

    As a Paralegal, Lawyer or other legal professional, a good chunk of your working day will involve liaising with colleagues. However, the head-down nature of homeworking legal roles can cut daily connections between co-workers.

    • Reach out regularly: Check in frequently via email or phone for business discussions or quick catch-ups. Consider a Slack, Microsoft Teams, or WhatsApp group chat to keep the conversation flowing.

    • Stay motivated, together: Without your colleagues to spark productivity, it can be easy to lose momentum. Brainstorm ways to fuel group accountability, from a daily team huddle to shared lunchtime yoga sessions to keep you firmly in the zone.

  • Set limits and switch off

    At the end of each day, power down properly. Switching off entirely from work helps head off burnout, which can be harder to spot when you’re working from home. Taking breathers and respecting boundaries can safeguard your mental health.

    • Turn off your computer or close your laptop: If you’re lucky enough to have an office at home, leave your work equipment in there overnight and close the door. If not, shut down your computer and pack everything away.

    • Switch off your work phone: Turn off your phone every evening and resist the urge to check your messages. If you have work apps on your personal phone, disable notifications outside working hours.

    • Set your out-of-office message: Make it clear you’re uncontactable by setting a daily out-of-office alert detailing working hours and when you’ll be back in touch.

    • Plan for tomorrow: Spend the final 10-15 minutes of your day planning tomorrow’s to-do list. By prioritising outstanding tasks in advance, you’ll clear your mind for a restful evening and start the new day even sharper.

  • Know your rights around remote working

    Although most companies currently offer a blend of homeworking and hybrid roles, research indicates that execs may call for higher office presence in the coming years. The 2023 KPMG CEO Outlook survey shows that almost two-thirds of CEOs believe workers will return to the office five days a week within the next three years. The vast majority (83%) of UK company leaders also predict pay and promotions could be linked to workplace attendance.

    Following the lead of high-profile organisations like Amazon, Meta, Google, and Citigroup, bosses say reuniting teams in person will strengthen collaboration, creativity, and corporate culture. Meanwhile, employees are highly reluctant to forgo their flexibility, with remote working repeatedly cited as a critical attraction and retention factor.

    While there are still plenty of remote legal jobs on offer, it’s worth knowing your rights as an employee and how to respond to a return-to-office request.

    • Check your employment contract: A return-to-office mandate will likely fall under a ‘reasonable management request’. If you’re asked to change from a remote to an onsite arrangement, consult your employment contract, which should state your place of work. If your company changed your contract verbally, you may be able to argue you have a contractual right to continue working from home, though this may prove challenging.

    • Take advantage of new flexible working rules: When the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 come into effect in April 2024, you’ll have more rights to request changes to your working pattern, including part-time, flexi-time, and remote set-ups. Your employer will need to consult with you before rejecting a flexible working request and respond within two months instead of three. You can also make two requests within a 12-month period, rather than the single request allowed under current rules.

    • Talk to your employer: If your company is pushing for more time in the office, speak to your line manager about your options. Approach them with a viable compromise – possibly including alternative start and end times, job share arrangements, or compressed hours – that offers a mutually beneficial balance of flexibility and face-to-face working.