The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A creative solution at D.C. law firm ensures that the mail does go through

The past 15 months have taught us all great lessons on just how productive and efficient we can be — with our laptops, high-speed Internet connections and Zoom account — doing our jobs from home.

But what if you work in your firm’s mailroom, receiving the hundreds of letters and packages per week, sorting through the deliveries and ensuring they get to the right person?

That doesn’t seem like a task conducive to telework. Unless you’re Jay Jackson, special project assistant in the D.C. office of the Kelley Drye & Warren law firm, who figured out how to convert space in his apartment in Northern Virginia into a remote mailroom.

“I kind of brainstormed. I looked to see what space I have available,” said Jackson, 35, who has worked at the firm for 13 years. “Because it’s just me — it’s not like I have a wife or girlfriend or children — and I have a big closet and big living room space, I was able to look at how to navigate it. I sketched it out on paper and said, this will work.”

Three days a week, Jackson said he meets the mail courier at the curb outside his apartment building and dollies or carries the 50-pound mail bins to his first-floor unit. He sprays Lysol on the mail to disinfect it. At first he operated from a desk in his living room; he has since shifted the desk and his workspace to his bedroom.

The year’s Top Workplaces elevate strategies to keep employees engaged

Once he sorts the mail, he time-stamps the pieces, scans them into a laptop the firm provided and sends them to the recipients electronically. He typically works from a recliner or office chair where he listens to LL Cool J, Maroon 5 or J. Cole.

Like everyone else working from home, Jackson has devised some hacks to differentiate work life from home life. At the end of the day, he puts all the mail into his closet so that his bedroom can again be a bedroom.

Twice a week, he takes the mail into the office where he files the pieces in the event staffers need to access the originals.

Volunteering to have all that mail delivered to his home “is an incredible feat,” said Suzanne Gralow, Kelley Drye’s director of administration, adding that the firm hasn’t yet decided when it will resume normal operations. “He’s stepped up to the plate and gone over and beyond the call of duty.”

Founded in 1836, Kelley Drye has offices in several locations including D.C., New York, Chicago and Houston. The firm has made the Top Workplaces list for all eight years that The Post has sponsored the program.

Energage, the Philadelphia-based firm that conducted the employee survey for the program, said organizations making the list tend to have a culture that supports employees, making them feel valued and important. Happy employees tend to be highly productive employees.

“We’re a pretty close community,” Jackson said. “We look out for each other.”

V. Dion Haynes