Virtual work has been all the rage since the COVID-19 pandemic began because many workplaces needed to promote remote work in order to socially distance due to the virus. Of course, virtual work existed for many years before COVID-19 hit, and I started working virtually in early 2019 when I started my own law firm. However, shortly after I opened my own law firm, I secured a physical office so that I would have a place to store files and meet clients, but I rarely went there. If I did travel to this office, I only spent an hour or two at a time at this location. I reasoned that traveling to and from an office was inefficient, and I could save money and time by simply working from home. However, my law firm recently secured a much larger office, and I decided to spend my first full day in an office since I started my own law firm around four years ago. The experience was positive, and made me believe that at least some office time might be helpful for many lawyers.
The first thing I noticed about working in an office rather than working at home is the energy I got from being in an office. My firm’s main office is located in midtown Manhattan, and the office has views of the bustling streets below. Seeing the sights of the city and hearing the sounds of the metropolis definitely added to my energy levels and impacted how I felt about my job. Most of the time I work from home, I work in my gym clothes with my TV on in the background. However, dressing up in business clothes and working in my office in the city was definitely a change of pace that made me feel more confident. I am unsure if this impacted my work product, but I definitely felt like I was taking myself more seriously when I was working our midtown Manhattan office than when I work from home.
Another thing I noticed about being in an office is the socializing effect being in an office can have on a firm. When most people talk about why it is important to have an office, they speak about collaboration and how it is easier to share ideas when people see each other in an office. I am not too convinced that this is the case, and people can collaborate in many ways, including through text, WhatsApp, or through a variety of other mediums.
However, it is much more difficult to have impromptu, unplanned, social interactions with people remotely than when people work in an office. When people are at the same workplace, they can bump into each other, talk about their weekends, share a joke, or otherwise socialize in ways that are much more difficult through remote means. Indeed, when I was in the office, the only other person around was my partner/brother, but we had a good time chatting and joking around throughout the day, as well as collaborating about client tasks.
Although it might not be readily apparent, informal social interactions are really important for creating a team mentality. When people collaborate on projects, it is much easier for people to know how to communicate things or approach certain parts of a task if they have a better understanding of their teammates through social interactions. Fostering a team mentality can be important to group projects and other tasks associates and staff complete in the course of their days, and fostering social interactions is important to making everyone on a team more efficient.
Another thing that I noticed about working in an office is that people can definitely be more productive in offices than at home. When I am at home, there are tons of distractions all around me, since the gym is a short walk away, my TV is literally inches from my desk, and I am more tempted to handle personal chores during the workday. However, when I was in the office for that one day, there were none of those distractions, and it was much easier to grind away at work tasks. Of course, I often arrange my days while working from home so that work and personal tasks are intertwined so I do not get burned out by devoting all of my energy to work. However, it is hard to dispute that people are far more likely to be more productive in offices than at home since there are fewer things that can distract attorneys and staff from work tasks.
All told, after working in an office for a full day for the first time in years, I definitely came to appreciate how useful at least a little office time can be. Of course, I’m still in favor of a mostly virtual work environment, but adding at least a day or so a week in an office can have a number of benefits.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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