COVID Confusion: Deciding Whether To Stay or Go Remote

Throughout the last year I have consistently heard that we need to “plan for the digital future.”  Time and time again famous entrepreneurs like Marc Cubin or Gary Vaynerchuk have mentioned on podcasts, YouTube videos and Good Morning America interviews spouting the importance of digital technology.  

What I find to be the key takeaway from those discussions is the need for our attention to acknowledge and accept that we are already in a digital world, and whether we go back to work in the office or not, digital is not going away.  Technology has brought us tremendous amounts of opportunities for businesses across the country; Estate and Elder Law firms are no exception. Have you accepted our new reality yet? 

If not, that’s okay, please know each person (and each situation) is different, requiring different judgments and outcomes. That is why some firms have had their entire staff vote to go remote, while others decided to stay in the office. As leaders we must accept that people work best in a variety of environments. The decision of going remote or staying is also a reflection of the company’s culture. Personally, I like to rotate what days I am in the office vs. working at home. In the office, I am productive because there are no distractions. It is just me, my coffee, and the computer. At home, there is the leisure to occasionally do a load of laundry, because the lack of commute allows me to start my day earlier, which I will admit, excites my OCD by getting a head start on the day. Little things like these can motivate employees. We encourage you to have an open discussion with your employees about this and potentially have some flexibility where permissible.  

Please take that last sentence literally. Providing your employees some flexibility does not mean that you become a push over leader who has an inconsistent team. This cannot become an excuse for mediocrity. Please remember, the culture you had before these changes will look different but, should still exist regardless of the changes you make. As Mike Tomlin says, “the standard is the standard.”  

This is the “COVID confusion” that encouraged me to write this article. We are naturally resistant to change. However, just because something out of our control forced us to change where or how we work, does not mean that our culture, goals, or quality of service has to suffer.  Take a few minutes today and step back and ask yourself-how do we accept this change for good?  

Dedicated to Your Success, 

Dominic Loffredo,

Director of Operations

 

Constructing a Telecommuting Firm with Longevity

Within the past year most businesses have transitioned their teams to work from home at some capacity. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of talk that this is a short-term fix. If you think this is going away, you may want to reconsider. According to a FlexJobs study on C-suite leaders, 78% believe telecommuting is here to stay long term. A Gartner study of leaders found that 80% of companies plan to allow their employees to work remotely at least part-time even after the pandemic. Some of these companies being big tech giants like Twitter and Microsoft.

So, if remote work is here to stay, what are the biggest needs to setup your team for longevity? First, like a good mechanic, you need the right tools. Find a communication platform that fits your teams’ style and needs. Many use Slack, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Discord, etc. The key here is setting up and including it in your procedures, so everyone is on the same page. 

Second, do not micromanage. If you did not do this before, why would you doing it now? Simply put, when making a significant transition such as working remotely (at any capacity) you probably feel or felt some type of disconnection and, in turn may be overwhelming your staff with questions and unplanned “check-ins” that they did not experience in the office. If this continues employees will become at risk of feeling that they are no longer trusted, let alone slowing them down by unnecessary interruptions. Remember, everyone is learning to transition towards working remotely, having someone constantly over your shoulder is not helping.

Highlight personal interaction. When you meet with staff individually or as a group, take the few minutes to ask personal questions and check in. This is what some might call “socializing.” This was a key piece when you worked in the office, but something that you could casually do throughout the day as you refilled your water or checked the mail. Working from home limits the opportunity to do this, so make use of every opportunity 

Finally, remember to Communicate. This may be my favorite. Regardless of situation, your communication on this transition should be clear for EVERYONE to understand. If not, reanalyze how you could provide clarity to those not understanding. With communication, we should seek feedback, whether it be the entire team or a few staff members that you know will be open and honest. This establishes trust, comfortability and rapport with staff and impacts how they view the organizationStart today.  

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” 

– Paul J Meyer 

Dedicated to your success,

Dominic Loffredo

Director of Operations

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

2020 has been the year of change. Since March our way of conducting business has been altered dramatically. We no longer conduct in-person meetings but have Zoom sessions. We no longer have the in-person interaction that is so vital to our industry. We can spend hours talking about the negatives or we can face this change head on. Whether we like it or not, we are being forced to change our game plan. With the new reality of remote working, communication has been crucial for businesses survival. It is not only the words that effect the way we communicate, but the decisions we make. As the world continues to adjust, we need to consider how this change is bearing on our co-workers and our clients.  

The main take away from today’s article is the key to communication. As remote work environments became more of the standard, a rise in miscommunication followed suit. We need to ask ourselves, what causes misinformation? It can come from a plethora of factors, whether it be the inability to focus on work when at home, to not checking emails, to over talking in Zoom meetings. No matter what the case is, companies need to realize everyone is adjusting to this new profound change. This brings to the forefront that our actions speak louder than words. People will not remember what you say – but they will remember how they were treated. 

As Aesop said, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” To prevent more being said than done, track your actions by having a say/do ratioBy keeping your word, you build trust amongst your team.  

We tend to communicate based upon our own needs. Yet, we find it challenging to work with others who communicate differently than us. Some questions to have your team ask/practice are: 

  1. When communicating with those who are different from me, I should remember: 
  2. Think of someone you collaborate with closely/often. How should I communicate differently with them? 
  3. The best way to work with me is: 

Having your team do a Kolbe Report can help show how your team can function during these unprecedented times. Sudden change, like we endured back in Marchmay cause us to change our natural ways to act. 

With the Zoom-era in full swing, a healthteam requires you to be vulnerable, to share how you are feeling, be real with your team, and to act on what you say. One thing we tend to forget is that we are all human. The human element is vital during these times. People want to know that everything is going to be okay, we need to be able to trust each other. Having a team one can depend on can boost productivity and allows for clear transparency that prevents miscommunication.  

Understand that in times of stress and fear, people divert back to their instincts. An issue that has become prevalent during the pandemic is employees’ fear of failure due to being overworked and fear of losing their job. A cycle which starts at fear, then conspires to frustration, wasted time, wasted energy, and finally fatigue. Pushing people to give their all during a time of stress and fear of the unknown will not deliver the results you are expecting. Remember, the human element is essential for these times. Instead of expecting a perfect project, expect a completed project. By acknowledging their accomplishments of projects and tasks, you will help them adjust to their new way of life, allowing for things to get back on track. 

In the end, we need to remember in times of stress and change, we need greater team collaboration. Make sure to track your say/do ratio to increase trust and because of these stressful times, remember to take a time out, take a walk and clear your mind. Last by not least remember that change is not good nor bad, it simply is. It is your mindset that determines your outlook on the future. 

 

Distracted or Determined?

What have you been paying attention to lately? No matter where you look, you can quickly be overwhelmed with information about politics, COVID-19, systemic racism, or the many other hot topics of today. Do not worry, this is not a political piece, this article is about where your attention lies. 

Many people have endured major shifts in their daily lives through occupational changes because of the pandemic. A lot of those people now work virtually and are balancing work/home life.  On top of that, the recent shift in how we work, shop, vacation or “go out for date night” has also changed like never before. Now more than ever, people are online. often find myself checking websites for updated hours, posts, etc.  

But let’s go back to what I started this article with and reflect on where your attention has beenI encourage you to make sure whatever you endure during the pandemic, that it impacts you in the right way.  Do not let the bad of every situation take over. John C. Maxwell beautifully said, “Nobody can motivate himself in a positive direction by continually using negative words.”   

Most likely, as business owners your lives have been directly impacted by COVID-19, but stop and think, what about COVID-19 has your attention? Is it negativity, science, anxiety, perseverance?  We always save the best for last.  

Perseverance is not a one size fits all approach. Outside of determination & hard work, perseverance looks different with every situation. Take the consistencies (determination & hard work) and morph them into a system of survival. What can you do to become Determined and not Distracted? Sitting around and worrying about what’s next is not going to progress anyone forward, we need to adapt and learn to overcome any obstacles that may come our way. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic caused most companies to transition into an online structure, rather than primarily face-to-face. Some industries, like Elder Law and Estate Planning never imagined a day where they would need to conduct their business fully online. 

We need to remember that change is neither good nor bad, it simply is. It will happen whether we like it or not. The team at MDS is dedicated to helping you adapt to the change. We have put together materials to help your firm with marketing campaigns, how to manage a virtual team and offers weekly calls focused on Advancing Forward amid the pandemic. We encourage you to stop the noise, reflect on where you are at right now, decide where you want to be and dedicate time to focus on getting there. 

Dedicated to Your Success, 

Why a Dementia-Focused Practice?

One of the most overlooked focuses in our industry is a Dementia-Focused Practice. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is believed that more than 9 million Americans live with some form of dementia. Now, you may be asking yourself, why should someone enter this field of law? To cut it short, dementia waits for no one. It does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic status. If you were to combine all forms of Dementia, the disease would be the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and stroke, in high-income countries.  

You may be thinking, yeah dementia affects millions every year, but why should dementia planning be treated any different than planning for anyone’s final chapter?  The answer is the sheer number and extent of challenges facing the person suffering from dementia. Depending on the stage of the disease, families and caregivers; their professional advisors, such as their attorney, are sobering.  

There are many decisions an individual makes when preparing for the final chapter of their life. If you add dementia into the mix, these decisions and the weight that comes with them can be overwhelming. This is where the Dementia-Focused Practice comes in! 

In terms of a Dementia-Focused Practice, the question isn’t: “What happens when someone dies?”, it is “What happens if they do not die and need long-term care?”. Depending on the diagnosis, the care and decisions being made can look incredibly different. Everyone throughout all levels of the practice is dedicated to helping persons with dementia and their loved ones navigate through all stages of the disease process. An person working in this focus will ensure the client and family have access to appropriate legal services, medical services, social services, and support. 

A firm who specializes with clients who have dementia need to make sure their practice is physical designed and decorated to create a comfortable atmosphere. For example, not having an overly busy or cluttered space, such as waiting areas and meeting rooms. Providing employees with easy-to-read name tags and making sure lighting is not too bright or too dim. When interacting with a client who has dementia, it is best to use person-first language. What this means is you need to put the person before their diagnosis. Instead of saying patient or dementia affected, label them as a person with dementia. Describe theicare living home as a community rather a facility or nursing home. Would you rather live in a community or a facility? 

When talking to a person with dementia, it is best to play by the 90 Second Rule. It can take up to 90 seconds for a person with dementia to process and respond. Another important note is to make sure the list of resources you give to clients have several dementia-focused resources. If you do not currently have any on your list, now is a great time to create a partnership. There is a plethora of ways your firm can focus on dementia, whether it be personalized written care plans, dementia-focused coordination and dementia-focused management. It is helpful to have dementia-focused staff dedicated to these disciplines when offering such services! 

Remember in the end, it’s not just that Dementia-Focused Practices want to help clients be prepared for a possible diagnosis. These practitioners truly see the need for people with dementia to have some form of relief knowing that they are prepared, if the day comes.