By Randal Girouard

The ediscovery workforce is wading into unprecedented times during the COVID-19 crisis, with seemingly no definitive end in sight. While eDiscovery workers are staying home, many are adjusting to their new roles working remote. They’re uncertain how the pandemic will develop and wondering how temporary their new working situation will be.

As ediscovery professionals are preparing their new at-home environments for work, we can’t help but wonder — will this become the new norm?

Despite this fearful time, working from home doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, research shows that remote working will be part of the legal industry for years after the COVID-19 crisis.

A Remote Work Future

For some workers, this is their first time working outside of an office space, but Gartner research shows that remote work, whether it’s part-time or full-time, has already been increasing and will continue to be more common in the future. Generation Z prefers remote work and will fully enter the workforce by 2030, by which time remote working is predicted to increase by 30%.

Technology makes it easier for those with office jobs to work from home, so the survival of the eDiscovery industry during this crisis time is a hopeful sign. In fact, it is recommended that we take this necessary experiment in remote work as an opportunity to cultivate our home offices and remote work policies.

It isn’t just Gen Z who prefers less face-to-face time in their work lives. A recent survey showed that 62% of full-time employees get the job done from home at least some of the time. 30% reported that they were already full-time remote employees. These workers have likely had a smooth adjustment during the coronavirus pandemic, and are prepared for a future outside of an office setting.

A more permanent shift to remote work may already be underway sooner than expected, according to another Gartner survey. It showed that nearly 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift at least 5% of their workers to remote positions after COVID-19. As more evidence indicates that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on our businesses, it’s more important than ever to have a plan to combat new challenges.

The Challenges to Working Remote

While some workers are successfully transitioning to this new approach, many managers have been reluctant to let their employees work remotely. 76% of HR leaders reported the top complaint during the coronavirus outbreak came from managers concerned about productivity and engagement from remote team members. While this uncertainty is understandable, research says this complaint is unfounded.  Remote employees will likely be as productive during the COVID-19 pandemic as they normally are.

Although productivity is predicted to level out, there is a learning curve that comes with adjusting to new workflows during the crisis. Individuals who are self-driven and enjoy working autonomously will thrive in the opportunity to create their own work environment, but not everyone will have an easy adjustment. Managers are cutting team members slack who are dealing with the new work-life balance of homeschooling their kids while simultaneously working remote jobs.

In addition to the disruption in normal work routines, workers also face the challenges of dealing with loneliness and a lack of social contact. In terms of their needs from employers, remote workers require direction and clear communication regarding their next steps.

The eDiscovery industry also expects to see it’s remote workers face new challenges with data management and security. Not all workers are familiar with their company’s remote work policies, and there has been limited time to train them. Now that they are working outside of the space they’re accustomed to, many companies are worried that employees will mishandle data by storing it on less than secure devices.

eDiscovery is Ready to Adapt

Despite these challenges, those in eDiscovery are well-prepared for remote working. Industry leaders like Reveal all offer cloud-based functionality to connect from anywhere. Reveal’s platform is also self-service, so users can upload data and run productions on their own, when needed. This feature, typically a perk of eDiscovery, is now proving to be more useful and relevant than ever before.

As long as litigators and other eDiscovery professionals have access to a computer and Wi-Fi, most work can be done without a commute to the office. Whether workers in the legal field are proceeding with virtual court dates or representing clients remotely, we will all find a way to keep going.

Lean on Reveal for Help

As a legal software provider, Reveal seamlessly supports those new to the remote work process. Litigators who don’t typically work from home may face distractions at first and lose some productivity. Reveal’s consulting services can pick up the slack while workers shift to an at-home environment. Reveal’s consulting support can also be utilized by legal teams for hiring freezes. Legal teams that have a budget for hiring are unable to hire people during the COVID-19 crisis, so reallocating those funds to consulting or service support can speed up the process of catching up on work.

Tips for Remote Workers

For the workers adjusting during this learning curve period, here are a few strategies for a successful workday from your living room.

Measure performance by outcomes, not hours. When managers don’t have the advantage of proximity to keep their employers in-check, trust in their productivity has to come into play.

Maintain consistent means of collaboration. Having routine check-ins, scheduled video conferences, and established routines of communication are important for maintaining engagement and productivity. An open and consistent line of communication increases trust between employers and managers, and also gives remote workers the direction they need.

Take advantage of the time of day that works best for you. Figuring out when you are prepared to be the most focused is important, as well as recognizing that you will need moments to breathe. Just like you would in the office, those few minutes you spend around the water cooler or having a chat with a co-worker are important to decompress and reflect.

Get ahead of data management and security issues.  In terms of eDiscovery specific challenges, getting ahead of possible data management and security issues should be a priority. Updating remote work policies and procedures for device usage is essential, as well as going the extra mile to make employees aware of these policies. All remote employees should be aware of proper data storage practices. Anticipating these challenges and learning how to adapt to them will be key in adjusting to remote eDiscovery.

While remote working is new for many workers today, it may be the new norm for the industry. eDiscovery professionals are well-equipped to handle this shift and can take the opportunity to perfect strategies during this uncertain time.