Running a Law Office Efficiently and Safely – Ergonomic and Productivity Considerations

An Efficient and Ergonomic Law Office Setup

“Time is money”.  This might be one of the oldest sayings in the world, and of course, it’s absolutely true. The waste of time and productivity costs a company, firm or corporation thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per year across the country. Even putting aside the slackers, mid-afternoon lag or lull, there’s still a lot to be said for monitored and enhanced performance. Sure, some legal offices may run a tight ship through a ‘command and conquer’ strategy, but the resulting high turnover of staff or high dissatisfaction when workers are polled, would suggest that ‘the flogging will continue until morale improves’ isn’t the best way to ensure great outcomes for everyone; that isn’t just yet another feel-good saying with no gravitas behind it.

Furthermore, there is a lot to be said about the equipment and workstation setup for workers in the office.  Combining the most efficient environment with the best organizational processes and workflow, you can come out of it with a successful long term strategy for organization growth, productivity and employee happiness.

Performance Monitoring Tools

Performance managing/monitoring tools aren’t just a way to gauge who’s doing what – showing up where the weak links are; it’s more than that. Software shows where capacity is stretched, and how pre-planning is best utilized in order to maximize workplace efficiency. Tax time would be a great example of this need: in knowing ahead of time what the probable increase in workload will be, legal offices can schedule additional resources to cope with demand. Perhaps that includes an upgrade of I.T. services to ensure the system doesn’t crash under the strain of everyone accessing their IRS information simultaneously – i.e. in a last-minute rush. By bringing in resources ahead of time to be the solution before it’s a problem, a legal company will save more than just ‘face’ in dealing with their clients.

A cloud server such as SD WAN which is enterprise networking, tailors solutions to fit your requirements, not insist that you conform to what’s there, because ‘that’s how it goes’. No, it doesn’t. SD-WAN improves IT agility, performance and efficiency. With SD-WAN you can intuitively manage networks based on parameters relevant to your business – apps, users, locations, performance and security. So there’s no one size fits all mentality, here.

Stay on top of application performance with regularly scheduled assessments with application analytics and diagnostics. Establish baselines for application performance and end-user experience. Rapidly diagnose, troubleshoot, and isolate root causes before problems become severe. Make proactive performance management decisions based on real data, not reactive choices as a result of user complaints. These are just some of the uses of optimized software in a legal office.

An all-in-one HR application can greatly assist with tracking employees timing, time off, HR management of files, third party integration, HR and ACA compliance, streamlining hiring, onboarding, and a fully-integrated payroll for instance, which updates itself as changes are made automatically.

Ergonomic Equipment for Efficiency

Following the meteoric rise of computers in the workplace in the 80’s and 90’s, there came a wave of workers complaining of injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger and other repetitive stress injuries.  This was because the original computer, keyboard, mouse, and desk was not designed with ergonomics in mind.  Hours on end in front of a “poorly” designed workstation left workers with serious problems, often requiring therapy or even surgery to fix.

As lawyers we should know about workers compensation consideration, as well as potential law suits that can arise from workplace injuries.  Therefore it should be doubly in our best interests to make sure the working environment is perfectly set up to insure an ergonomic, comfortable work day for everyone at the office.

Here are the important equipment considerations to keep in mind:

Computer Workstation

Ergonomic Workstation

Probably the most important consideration for computer workers is the use of an ergonomic workstation, which includes ergonomic mouse and keyboard, office chair, and possibly a footrest and other accessories.

For the keyboard, there are a few schools of thought.  Firstly, the wrist should have a support pad made of some type of soft, but firm, foam or similar material.  These sometimes come separately from the keyboard.  These avoids the pressure from the desk on the lower portion of the wrist, which is a *huge* cause of carpal tunnel and other problems.  Furthermore the rigid rectangular design of a keyboard is another vestige of the original design, which didn’t take into account the use of these things for so many hours at a time.  Many keyboards now use a split design (see picture about) that allows each hand to have a more comfortable bend to it.

Ergonomic Mouse
An ergonomic mouse uses a vertical grip instead of horizontal.

For the mouse, the consideration is mostly the vertical alignment.  The original computer mouse was designed to essentially be a container for a track wheel and a button to click, and not much more.  Early designers did not anticipate that workers would be using them 8+ hours a day.  New designs have rotated the mouse to have a “handshake” style alignment of the wrist, which alleviates pressure and avoid issues related to carpal tunnel syndrome.  Other considerations for a good ergonomic mouse are the sensitivity and responsiveness.

Personal Routines to Encourage in Employees

On the personal front, set up a To-Do priority list the night before, and adhere to it as much as possible during the day. Tick them off as you go, and reschedule those wish weren’t done in – or need more – time to complete. Avoid procrastination. Do the ‘ugliest’ task/s first and then you will have them out of the way, rather than bugging you for the remainder of the day. Minimize phone calls to a block session, either early on in your day or later in the afternoon. Sure, some incoming calls must be answered, but leave the remainder for your secretary to handle. Telephone interruptions are one of the most notorious ways to fall behind schedule, and lead to greater loss of productivity overall. If it happens to you, cut that one off at the pass, pronto.