In today’s 5 Tip Friday article, we’re discussing tips for managing your remote employee workloads. This is a topic that’s close to our hearts at CGL. We founded CGL to tackle some of the biggest challenges in the legal industry – and one of those is burnout.
US attorneys are in crisis. The incidence of burnout, anxiety, and poor mental health is quickly increasing. In the legal industry, this isn’t that surprising. First year attorneys working at BigLaw firms are often expected to bill 2,200 hours per year. This requires them to work from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, plus 2 Saturdays each month (according to a Yale paper).
And that’s just the minimum standard. Attorneys who want to get ahead will need to work more than that.
The thing is, research is increasingly showing that employees aren’t any more productive after 50 work hours a week. Productivity gets worse after 55 work hours in one week. Meanwhile, US employees are bragging about their 70+ hour weeks and all-nighters.
But, tackling these long weeks is complex – especially in a remote workforce, where you can’t see your employees working.
Employees are used to the long-hour culture, and managers are used to rewarding it. We hope these tips for managing your remote employee workloads help you work towards real work-life balance in your company:
Tip 1: Make your company’s attitude towards work-life balance known.
The thing is, there are so many companies that purport to offer work-life balance. Employees are promised vacation time (sometimes even unlimited vacation time), as well as relaxed productivity targets and wellness benefits, only to find that they can’t take advantage of them due to the workplace culture.
Since employees are used to this, it’s up to workplace leaders to make it publicly known that your workplace is different. This is especially important for remote employees, since they don’t have the benefit of seeing their manager leave for the day.
At CGL, we regularly post on social media about what our employees are up to outside of work hours and we share advice about finding balance in our weekly internal newsletter. We have made employee autonomy part of our mission. And we let our clients know that we don’t expect our attorneys to be available to them at all hours. Instead, we negotiate reasonable timelines for responses that work for both the client and the attorney.
Tip 2: Incentivize asking for help.
To promote the culture we promise, we’ve made sure that asking for help is incentivized at CGL. We had an employee come forward recently to say that he was overloaded. And, the truth is, he was. He had been carrying a workload beyond the scope of his initial job description for quite some time.
As we see it, as employers, it’s our responsibility to be grateful for the work our employees do, and to acknowledge that they can only do so much. We let him know that we see what he’s doing, and helped him ease the burden of his workload by identifying our priorities and encouraging him to delegate non-essential tasks. He has found much better balance – and more enjoyment in his role.
We’ve said it before: treating employees humanely is an inherently selfish thing for employers to do. We don’t want to lose this employee, it would cost us time and money if he left. Taking a few minutes to thank him and create a work environment he can thrive in benefits everyone.
Tip 3: Have leaders keep an eye on key metrics.
We know that our employees will occasionally pull long hours in a week, in law that’s sometimes the nature of the beast. But, we also know that long hours aren’t healthy and lead to absenteeism, burnout, drops in productivity, and ultimately reduced employee retention. So, we keep an eye on our employee metrics to ensure they aren’t working too much. Again, this is really important in a remote workforce since we can’t ‘see’ when our employees are working.
If they are, it’s time for leaders to proactively reach out to check in. Some employees might be front loading their work efforts so they can take time off, and that’s great. Other times, they might be feeling stressed and unable to speak up. It’s worth letting the employees know they can ask for help – and that they won’t be penalized for doing so.
Tip 4: Develop promotion criteria that reward non-time-based metrics.
For many businesses, time is money. So, employees need to spend their time doing tasks for clients for the business to be profitable. This business model has made it such that employers almost exclusively reward employees with promotions for the amount of time they spend in their chairs at work each week.
It is going to be an uphill battle for this model to change. Instead of turning it on its head, we’ve started to implement alternative promotion criteria that reward non-time-based metrics too.
You can do this by encouraging business leaders to look at metrics like client retention, client referral rate, length of client relationships, and client satisfaction to reward employees. This evens the playing field for folks who can’t or don’t wish to commit to long work weeks, while also ensuring you have a diverse skill set at the head of your company.
Tip 5: Provide resources for your employees.
If you want your employees to be creative and productive, they need tools and resources that allow for that.
Technological intervention is one thing. Yes, technologies can streamline workflows, reduce operational inefficiencies, and improve communication. But they can also be expensive. Your company should invest in technologies that are able to offer an ROI, based on tangible increases in productivity or time saved.
Your employees should also be able to tap the expertise of managers and other co-workers, while having easy access to internal resources that make work easier and faster. Encourage your employees to share valuable resources, invest the time into creating a knowledge bank, and ensure that processes are documented and easy to find, so that employees don’t need to spend time reinventing the wheel. For a remote workforce, it is even more important that you invest in technologies and internal processes and systems that give them access to knowledge. You might consider creating mentorship programs, scheduling social hours online, and having after work drinks from time to time. These all foster the relationships your employees need in order to be productive at work.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Let us know what you think about what we’re doing at CGL or tell us your tips or tricks for managing your remote employee workloads. You can comment on the social media post sharing this content or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any topics you’d like us to cover, tell us. We’re here to help!
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