A New Normal Takes Time, Practice, And Design

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“Does it even make sense to change from my snowflake pajamas if I’m working from home all day?”  asked one of my team members.

“I just left groceries at my mother’s door and left. I was worried that interacting with her would endanger her health. Is that normal?” asked another.

Although they would have sounded crazy just a few weeks ago, these are good, logical, and even important questions. 

It Is Okay Not To Feel Normal

As we’re all still settling into a new normal, if there is such a thing, I noticed that many of my calls start with the references to the “end of the world” or “apocalypse,” as a joke to defuse tension and discomfort. Of course, every joke has a kernel of truth in it.

I’ve also noticed a lot of anxiety. Some feel very cooped up at home. Others worry whether they do enough to prevent getting infected. And others are worried about their children, significant others, and parents. Anxiety is in the air.

Indeed, times are strange. It is normal to not feel normal and to ask questions that you have never asked before. It is okay to check in with yourself and others. It is okay to go easy on yourself and go easy during this time of uncertainty and transition.

Working From Home (Or From Anywhere!) Is A Learned Skill And Habits

Just because we have homes, and many even have home offices, does not mean that we know how to work from home. Many of us are still struggling with the working-from-anywhere routine. How do I dress for a workday from home? It is now a persistent question and discussion.

Others are not yet comfortable and proficient with the technology. For example, video technology is new and uncomfortable for many professionals. Feeling camera shy is common. Worrying about one’s unprofessional home arrangement is another persistent theme. Are kids allowed in the background of your video meeting? Pets?

 

These are logical responses to what we are seeing at a societal level. It is normal to have questions when routine is disrupted. The good news is that many of these habits and skills, including how to come across professional on camera, are learned. More good news: learning video technology pales in comparison to passing a bar exam or mastering the rule against perpetuities.

 Supportive Hiring Practices, Infrastructure, Culture, Training, And Policies

Finally, we as lawyers can learn from others how to identify, influence, and implement best practices in our organizations. For example, I recently interviewed Marc Kaufman of Rimon Law about building a distributed law practice. It turns out that working from anywhere must be by design. According to Kaufman, the hiring practices, infrastructure, culture, training, and policies make a huge difference in whether an organization can work from anywhere effectively and whether it can seamlessly transition from a physical to a virtual working environment. In other words, working from anywhere will only become normal if the organization embraces working from anywhere by design.

The global coronavirus –- and government responses to it -– have thrown all of our lives into chaos. We are now making changes in our lives that were unimaginable just a few weeks ago. In making those changes, it’s essential that we remain proactive and not reactive. If we want to succeed in our workplaces, we must make choices by design, thinking strategically about what we want. If we do, we might even learn a thing or two for after the crisis.


Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology.  Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.

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