Lawyers in Lockdown - Reflecting on the changes and staying connected
Rebecca Glazebrook, Partner in corporate and commercial, Laura Sutton, Senior Associate in dispute resolution and Holly Goacher, Associate in Real Estate discuss their experiences in lockdown and how they stay connected with clients and other members of the team.
"Reflecting on the current changes which have been forced upon us can only lead me to think positively. For some time at PDT, we have had the ability to work remotely – whether from home when we needed some ‘time to think’ away from the office or when on the move at client premises or other firms. Have laptop, will travel (or something like that!). The current working from home, therefore, has been a variation of the same.
We have all had to think creatively to engender the same team atmosphere we experienced when in the office. Gone are the impromptu coffee catch ups which we took for granted when people gathered in the kitchen. What has replaced them is a more planned/organised catch up between teams and, at present, of the Firm once a day. We can share news, talk about what we need to do and how we can work better together. These contact points, whilst planned, have meant a real one-to-one catch up with individuals on a daily basis and are welcome.
The main danger is working too much! Being wedded to your screen all the time, whether for drafting or for team and client calls, means there is a propensity not to move. I have now set an alarm every hour to make sure that I get up and move about. Taking a lunch break with my family has also been a nice sanity check through the day. Rather than mulling over work issues which I have been chewing over, I now get to adjudicate the latest disagreement between the children or do some household chores.
I am thankful for those calming moments throughout the day when I can look out into the garden and see the children playing nicely together or our chickens roaming around. The children have been on Easter break over the last two weeks, so all may change with the challenges of working and home schooling!
I would like to think that once things return to normal, we can look back and think of all the things we achieved – working remotely is not to be feared but embraced; using technology more fully than ever before; and the team spirit with everyone pulling together during difficult times."
"Working from home was something I recently started to do before the pandemic erupted. As a working mother, I was very used to driving into the office and effectively switching from one role (mum, partner, maid and cook) to efficient and ruthless litigator. Boxhill (which is about half way between home and the office) over the years became a place that divided both parts of my life. Working from home was quite a novelty to me pre pandemic and I must confess I was much more efficient when working on large tasks at home, when the children were at school, without the disruption of meetings and queries or the occasional quick chat.
This is very different. I am now working full time at home, with the rest of the country. I am having to adapt quickly to technology which I have not used before, to being more self reliant and for not having that physical divide between work life and home. I started work earlier and finish later, to begin with this seemed like a positive, I was delighted to have the work but after two weeks I was mentally exhausted and realised I needed to readdress my work life balance - which is easier said than done, when trapped indoors and going to tesco becomes a big treat; there is always that constant temptation to look at that email or finish that letter. I realised I needed to be more disciplined.
Daily team meetings have helped to fend off the feeling of isolation and to maintain an ‘we are all in this together’ mentality, which is so important when working at home. I think the most encouraging thing about the whole situation is the way PDT as a firm but very much as individuals have come together, to make a success of a business which is obviously so important to all of us and not just the partners. Gives me faith that on the other side of COVID 19 PDT and its clients will come out stronger than ever."
"From the moment it was confirmed we would be working from home full time, I resolved to see it as an opportunity to be super productive, both in my work and home life. I spent my first day making (perhaps overly ambitious) lists of things to do that day, that week, that month, and then I spent the following hours working through emails and spending a lot of time on the phone. I felt guilty for taking time to get my head into something away from my screen, or even to have lunch, thinking I would definitely be needed by a client or a colleague, and rushing back to my emails. Nothing got ticked off the lists, and a couple of days in I was already feeling disheartened.
Being shut in my study all day turned out to be no fun at all, and actually pretty lonely. So, in the days that followed I tried working in every possible space in my house – from my sofa to every seat at the dining table, to outside and even on the floor in my bedroom. I tried starting my day in the study and then mixing it up in the afternoons with a move to the dining room. But with my husband on furlough leave, being present in our living space meant to him that I was free to talk about whether we need extra storage in the kitchen, or did I want to catch up on an episode of Breaking Bad at 3pm on a Tuesday. So back to the study I went, this time after a day spent clearing out the junk and making it a peaceful, calm working space. I also keep the door a little bit open now; hearing my husband potter around and the hub of the TV keeps me feeling connected.
This has been essential for me. I often find it easier to send an email rather than going to find someone to speak to them face to face, which inevitably takes more time out of an already crammed day. But now I look for every opportunity to make a call to my colleagues, both work-related and just to check in. I am also speaking daily to someone who I wouldn’t usually, just to see how they are and to have a conversation about something other than work and Covid-19.
In those conversations it’s hugely important to be honest and open about our experiences during this unsettling and very unusual time. I haven’t minded telling people that I struggled to make my working day work for me, or that I have found it hard to switch off. Week three seems to have eased the anxiety, but it has been difficult to adjust and I don’t mind discussing that with people. This isn’t easy on anyone.
Overall I am sticking to my initial resolve to see this new normal as a positive experience, one that is likely to change our working practices for longer than just three months, one that will make us forever more connected, and more appreciative of those things we take for granted, being a chat with a colleague in a different department, or being able to scan in a document! This is definitely an opportunity to reset and reconsider, and I for one am taking it."
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