Before I even begin a discussion on best practices while working from home, for those who recently starting working from home due to Covid-19, this is not normal. Working from home can be incredibly productive, unless you have a small human that needs entertainment, a spouse who is accustomed to lots of water cooler chat, and several people in a house-sized space making a mess all day. What we have now is trying to work during a quarantine.
However, work goes on. Just because the courts are only hearing certain types of cases and the local government is only open with restrictions on how many people can be in a room at a time doesn’t mean the need for lawyers disappears. If anything, with the various new regulations that have come out of this situation, lawyers will find new roles helping families navigate childcare, businesses stay open, and people face the need for an estate.
I recently had a phone call with a law firm concerning confidentiality issues. While they had put in place various technological protections to ensure information on the computers their staff was using was backed up and protected, that didn’t fully address their concerns regarding work from home situations.
It is common for businesses who have employees that work from home to ask them to submit pictures of their workspace to ensure it meets applicable workplace safety standards. Worker’s compensation insurance often requires this information on file should an at-home employee file a claim. You can ensure that your workers have adequate privacy to work on confidential documents, take phone calls, and openly discuss client information. However, there is a level of trust required in this situation and you can emphasize, up front, that you expect your staff to behave with professional discretion. A review of the ethical rules of confidentiality is always a good idea!
Another idea is to assign code names for internal discussions of particularly sensitive projects. This allows discussion of projects for well-known brands or important individuals to happen with less risk if a portion of the conversation is overheard.
Communication is key. Discuss policies with employees and also provide them with specific examples of potential issues and solutions. Finally, have an open door to address employee concerns, especially as businesses try to return to work. Discuss various options for time in office, physical separation, and flexible-hours to find a solution that best fits your team while still allowing you to meet client needs.