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Lady Justice: Remote work revolution

Back in the last millennium (that would make me feel old but for my oldest daughter being born then as well), I recall being impressed when our firm’s IT provider was taking a year with his spouse to travel the world while taking no time away from providing us his services. Let’s face it, most of us will never get a year off to travel the world, so travelling while working sounds like a good option. You could take the time before you start a career, but that is usually with a backpack as you have no funds. Working to put myself through University meant I never even thought about it. You could wait until you retire, but I saw some statistics recently which state the average lawyer retires at 75 – that’s a long time to wait, and these days, who knows what you are waiting for.

Shortly after his world tour, I had a serious motor vehicle accident and sustained a concussion and other injuries. I ultimately ended up using a wheelchair as my ability to walk declined. It would take forever to get ready and get to work each day. I called my learned IT guru and asked how I could work, not from exotic corners of the planet, but from home. He was able to connect me to my office remotely. Fortunately, my health recovered but that is when I realized that if I could survive law with a head injury, perhaps it really was possible to balance family and law. We started a family. I took that working parent a bit to extremes (as I am inclined to do) by not taking time off after having each of my daughters. The point is that flexible work parameters can be used to maximize productivity in various domains.

As a “lifelong learner,” and as the choice in education for a working parent became broader over the course of the Pandemic due to developments in online learning, I recently completed the Harvard Business Analytics Program (#HBAP). One of my professors, Tsedal Neeley, recently published Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere in recognition that the unprecedented changes brought on by COVID-19 have accelerated the transition to remote working. Remote teams need special considerations.

As we learn to live with the various strains of the Pandemic as our new normal, there are those who continue to explore remote work options, whether it is necessary or not, as it may be desirable to reduce costs, commutes, expand the talent pool, etc. Many legal issues arise in that context. Is a worker even entitled to remote or in-person options? Clear agreements and policies are needed to address topics such as work hours, availability, cybersecurity, privacy, computer usage and other rights and responsibilities of workers and employers. Challenges arise in ensuring fair considerations to both the remote and onsite workers in a hybrid workforce.

And lastly, there has to be an ability to disconnect. Unlike being in the physical office, when you can’t really ignore your boss and co-workers, make sure you set up your virtual office to leave time to honour your friends and family. After all, to borrow a line from a fellow (fictional) writer Jack Torrance (aka Nicholson) in The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Evolve your remote work to be your friend, not your master.

Donna Purcell, Q.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.