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The Practicalities of Staff Working From Home

Posted March 19th, 2020 by Rob Hosier

Hi All,

The team at inCase wanted to use our expertise to hopefully provide some useful information for the difficulties the industry will face over the coming weeks. We have some of the greatest brains in the LawTech space and have a unique knowledge of the systems and technology that firms are already using. So hopefully our tips here will help some of you when making important decisions over the coming days. The main priorities are:

  • Do a risk assessment of what elements of your service could be affected by either sickness (including self-isolation), working from home, clients not willing/able to visit your office, incoming post, clients getting sick and general economic difficulties.
  • Start putting in place working from home policies and infrastructure:

Working From Home Policies: –

  1. Health and Safety:- https://archive.acas.org.uk/homeworking & https://archive.acas.org.uk/media/3905/Homeworking—a-guide-for-employers-and-employees/pdf/Homeworking-a-guide-for-employers-and-employees.pdf
  2. HR Considerations:- https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/legal-practical-tips-employers-homeworking/ & https://www.hr-24.co.uk/articles/manage-homeworking/
  3. Security Considerations:- https://www.computerworld.com/article/3532352/12-security-tips-for-the-work-from-home-enterprise.html & https://www.cpni.gov.uk/content/home-and-mobile-working

Infrastructure: –

What are the infrastructure needs when allowing our staff to work from home?

Security – It is not safe to allow them to use their own computer as you have no control over virus’ or access.

Poor equipment – Slow computers hamper productivity. A lot of people forget that if people are working from home, most home internet connections will not be of the required standard/speed, especially if you are expecting to use VOIP calls or remote desktops. It might be beneficial to support members of staff to upgrade their internet connection – especially as a lot of people in their neighbourhood could be working from home and thus reduce the local bandwidth.

Hardware:

Laptops – If you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase laptops for all your members of staff, then do so – remember, most retailers will allow you to return items in a resalable state within 28 days. Consequently, you can have them ready to deploy if needed.

Chromebooks – Another option that we have used in previous firms was to issue members of staff with ‘Chromebooks’ and then use RDP (remote desktop) to access servers/systems in our environment. For example you can purchase a Chromebook for less than £200 plus VAT (https://www.ebuyer.com/908845-asus-c204ee-gj0081-3y-intel-celeron-4gb-16gb-emmc-11-6-chromebook-c204ee-gj0081-3y ). This then allows you to use your existing systems and more importantly, your existing Case Management System for your lawyers to work from home. Additionally, we would also suggest making sure each Chromebook has the very latest anti-virus/security software installed prior to issuing to all staff.

Mobile Phones – Pay as you go sim cards are available from most retailers (including supermarkets). Normally all you need to do is place £10 credit per sim card and the number will work. You may want to go out and purchase cheap/second-hand (see https://uk.webuy.com) phones for your staff. However, we know from the use of inCase that all of your staff will already have a mobile phone, and most might have a spare old phone at home. If you find out what network they need, you could ask your staff to use their own phone and pop in the new sim card. You can then divert your office numbers to the allocated mobile number.

Post Room – One of the biggest challenges will exist in the post that will continue to be sent to your office when staff are absent or working from home. For firms that have gone paperless and have a digital post room, your only challenge will be to maintain the staffing of the same – you may want to train as many members of staff on this role NOW.

For firms that do not have a digital post room, there are still things you can do to help mitigate disruption here as much as possible. Firstly, encourage both clients and other law firms to not send items in the post – the more you can do to limit the post the easier it will be to manage in difficult circumstances. Encourage clients to use tools like inCase to communicate that will eliminate all post from them. Other firms can email all documents/letters to your Fee Earners (without sending a copy in the post!).

However, difficult times like this are a great opportunity to innovate your practices. It is very simple and inexpensive to implement a very rudimental digital postroom. Most modern photocopiers have the ability to scan documents quickly into an electronic PDF. Scanners can also be purchased for as little as £200! – see https://www.printerbase.co.uk/epson-workforce-ds-1630-scanner.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjwx7zzBRCcARIsABPRscPBSYX_r4FQeEc23eZ2CBVUaXulHqej3dAV6MkWexmCGh6_3DGtB-0aArNnEALw_wcB

Even a basic scanner like this is easy for ANY member of staff to scan any document into a PDF and email/send to the relevant person. Guidance can be given on what documents will still need to be stored, but generally most letters can be destroyed immediately.

Again, remote workers can email/scan documents at home to send out electronically and consequently there is no need for a printed and posted version – saving you money!

This then means, in the worst of scenarios, the actual only function that needs to be staffed in the office is the post room – although if you take actions to reduce the amount of post, this should only be needed for a few hours per day.

Software

We would recommend using a RDP service like Citrix detailed below, this will allow your employees to use your current software in the usual environment. Providing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection for each home worker will also add extra protection to your data and systems ( one provider is https://www.perimeter81.com/pricing?a_aid=146 )

However, there are other systems and software products available that can really help with internal and external communication and try to keep your team as positive and productive as possible. As a business that has always had remote workers and staff working from home, we use these products on a daily basis.

  1. Slack ( slack.com ):- This is the best way to keep a high level of communication internally. You can organise teams/channels so departments can speak to other departments. For example, you could have an ‘Accounts Channel’ where client account ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ could be communicated. With Slack, you are also able to make conference/video calls with each other and screenshare your own screen. You are also able to send documents through the system and it fully integrates with many other systems, like dropbox, google drive, etc. A similar system is Microsoft Teams that might already be included in your Microsoft Office license.
  2. Zoom ( https://zoom.us ):- This is the best conference/video calling system that we have tried. It will allow you to speak to clients extremely easily. Sometimes these systems can be very difficult for the external party to connet to, but we have found Zoom to be the best and easiest to connect – clients can even just call into the meeting.
  3. Whatsapp ( whatsapp.com ) :- You may already have a group chat for the business. We have found that a Whatsapp group can help keep the informal connections between members of staff that are normally seen in the staff kitchen etc. Make sure its kept light and informal, it’s the best way we can keep the personalities of the business going.
  4. Citrix RDP ( citrix.com ):- A little bit more serious, but Citrix RDP is a stable and secure remote desktop client. Remember that the end device still needs to be secure before using the RDP, but it will mean little disruption to your staff as they will be completely familiar with the desktop etc.
  5. Invoco (invoco.net ):- You may be using VOIP systems at present, and we wouldn’t recommend changing. However we use Invoco to remotely manage any phone numbers that we need diverting, but it can also track who is having the most calls and from what source – Ideal to separate calls from third parties away from clients calls, thus ensuring you can prioritise client calls.
  6. inCase Outlook Plugin:- This is not a sales pitch, our inCase Plugin WILL help you with client communication in these difficult times. The best bit… for any license holder, we provide it completely for free. It sits on any version of Outlook and means you and your clients do not need to send anything in the post, clients can complete forms from self-isolation and complete ID checks etc. It is also the best solution if you cannot gain access to your CMS whilst working remotely.

Look at what costs can be reduced: – Using technology in the right way can have huge cost savings for your business. Additionally, working from home will save you money in heating, electricity, paper, postage, DX and even teabags!!!

Implementing Work from Home Strategies (the softer points): – Our CEO has also written this article on what he has done for both of his businesses regarding WFH strategies:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coronavirus-implementing-work-from-home-strategies-businesses-amin/

From all of the team here at inCase, we hope the next few months are not too challenging and if there is ANYTHING we can do to help, even if it is just a second opinion, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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