Your phone buzzes. It’s a text message (and not even an hour into your workday). You reply and place the phone face down, returning to your…
Now a chime sounds.
This time it’s Teams (or maybe it’s Slack). You investigate, reply, and refocus. You’ve got a deadline to meet.
A notification now waves like a flag on the bottom of your screen. It’s an email. You ‘X’ the banner and turn off alerts. This email can wait.
Now all is quiet. No chimes, banners, or flashes of light begging for your attention. It’s just you and that little unopened envelope. You know, the one you’re consciously ignoring. The little guy sits on your toolbar when Outlook is minimized, it’s yellow color offers just enough pop to get your attention. It’s letting you know the message is ready to be read (whenever you’re ready to read).
The truth is, you don’t have the guts to ignore that little unopened envelope. None of us do. And it’s killing our productivity.
The Digital Communication Revolution
Law firms, like many businesses, have undergone a revolution of digital communications in the last year. These tools have been heralded as the greatest invention since the printing press. No longer are workers tethered to a desk or landline phone. Collaboration and synergies are at an all-time high. Workflow is simply faster with instant response times. Offices are irrelevant. Emojis have entered the workplace and it’s hilarious.
So why has work never been harder?
In our quest to become totally connected, we’ve forgotten that sometimes we need to be disconnected to get things done. Independence and solitude, free of bells and whistles, are important to productivity and focus.
Culturally, this concept is becoming thornier. Everyone has an open-door policy when we have no doors. And without being in office, access and openness is prioritized. There is a silent obligation to be responsive, and that pull is strong.
Consider the yellow dot, a popular feature of Microsoft Teams that let’s people know you’re away from your computer. Should you leave to get a sandwich, for instance, there’s no need to make an announcement, because your Teams dot does it for you. The dot goes from green, which means “active,” to yellow, which signifies “away,” after a period of 10 minutes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has unintended psychological consequences: Who wouldn’t want to appear as “active?” There is a time for focus and breaks, and a time to be available for colleagues, but in the era of the yellow dot, those lines have never been blurrier.
To be clear, E-Typist is a big proponent of digital communications for improved workflow. For instance, we have since introduced Slack. We are now Slack uber fans. It’s made our team stronger and nimbler in meeting our client’s needs. And especially for a field like law, which is typically tech resistant, we see these new tools revolutionizing the sector. But like any tool, Slack, Teams, Zoom, Outlook, Gmail, texting and the rest have diminishing returns.
Firms of all sizes should be having ongoing conversations about digital communication expectations with staff. Embrace digital minimalism, and make sure the tools you’re using have intent and purpose behind them.
An Old Concept for a Modern Work Experience
Because COVID-19 changed the way many firms operate, one consequence (or benefit depending on your perspective) was layoffs of support staff.
For some firms, new technologies meant coordination and communication could be done by lawyers themselves. But as we’ve ventured further into this brave new world, there are very real side effects to the digital onslaught.
In short, lawyers need to work at the highest end of their license. They need to be supported to do what they do best – practice law. And this is where secretarial professionals come into play.
E-Typist’s solution is Virtual Legal Assistants. These assistants rightsize traditional staffing models to be more cost-effective, working on-demand to complete tasks (meaning firms pay only for what is needed).
Of all the administration Virtual Legal Assistants undertake, perhaps one of the most valuable is inbox management. They can monitor email, social media, web-chats and other communications, handling instant needs and triaging more important, time-sensitive matters. That means less buzzing and dinging for attorneys, and more time to focus on what’s most important.
All this is to say, a tool is just a tool. And like a hammer has its time and place, so does Zoom. Reflect on how your workflow actually flows and ensure you’re in control of your tools (not the other way around).