When I moved from finance to the legal sector in 2016, there were already rumblings of a technological revolution. After decades of traditional working practices, law firms were beginning to automate processes and streamline communication.

As a technical innovator, the opportunity to steer FBC Manby Bowdler (FBC) towards greater efficiency and profitability was one of the reasons I made the switch. Thanks to the pandemic, the rumblings have become a seismic shift and a gentle, toe-dipping in technology has rapidly evolved into a full-body immersion.

FBC’s digital transformation programme has accelerated far quicker than anyone thought possible; we’ve met our phase 1 goals in six months rather than 18 months. Automated documentation systems, advanced analytics, cloud-based software and digitalised case management systems now mesh with our existing workflow and ultimately improve efficiency, productivity and even profitability.

But that’s only half the story. Advantages gained by technical advancements need to run in tandem with our greatest asset – the FBC staff. A year ago, I was helping staff collect computers to set up homeworking stations. For many, it seemed impossible that they could do their job effectively at home, without the support of a physical office.

However, video calls became the norm – the ping of phones replaced office chit-chat and social media updates regularly interrupted focus. I frequently held online meetings where I could see numerous technical devices vying for attention.

My phone began to feel like another limb, to be carried and cared for every waking hour. According to research, the average person looks at their phone 58 times a day. A quick poll of colleagues suggested the number was much higher, as the remote-working day often leaked beyond regular hours and the work phone was used on the sofa and even in bed.

Clearly, our increased use of technology raised concerns about health and wellbeing and ultimately productivity. Fortunately, I was well-positioned to leverage a new role with ‘techtimeout’, an innovative new company raising awareness of the importance of taking time out from technology.

Awareness,understanding, change

I strongly feel that we have a duty of care to employees to take a proactive approach to technology usage. It’s vital that we enable staff to use technology in a way that doesn’t adversely affect their health, wellbeing and relationships.

So, where to start? First, we need to raise awareness about the dangers of too much screen time. Show your employees you're committed to raising awareness of the issue and supporting them with their mental health and productivity.

A great place to start is by having conversations and encouraging employees to reflect on their own working practices and screen time. This could begin with simple data collection in the form of an online questionnaire. It’s important that you don’t second guess how your employees use technology. In the legal sector, the age range of staff is vast. Millennials will have a very different approach to technology to a partner that has only just accepted that the printer is becoming largely obsolete.

Advice for managers

·       Create open channels of communication

·       Be conscious of working hours and their impact, particularly on junior colleagues

·       Schedule emails or consider leaving them in drafts

·       Block out time to do your own work

·       Encourage team members to group together questions

·       Ask about work/life balance and mental wellbeing during 1-2-1s ­– remember emotions run high at the moment.

techtimeout works with law firms to facilitate healthier relationships with technology. Through its relationship with LawNet, a national network of independent law firms, 147 staff from Biscoes Solicitors recently participated in its core techtimeout10 challenge, encouraging staff to enjoy time away from screens, every day for 10 days.

Biscoes managing director, Alison Lee, says: “We decided to take part in the challenge as part of our on-going health and wellbeing programme. It’s extremely important to encourage staff to take time away from technology, especially those working from home and we are setting daily puzzles and sharing time out ideas.”

If you’re looking for solutions to help staff develop healthier relationships with technology or want to find out more about techtimeout’s workplace programmes, tools and resources please contact neil@techtimeout.co.uk

Neil Lloyd is managing director of FBC Manby Bowdler and commercial director at techtimeout techtimeout.co.uk

 

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