The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses across the UK has been significant and a large proportion of the population are now working from home as part of efforts to practise social distancing.
At Brodies we have around 700 colleagues working from home and as the trainees (and everyone else) become accustomed to this way of working, it is a good time to reflect on how adjustments can be made to 'the new normal'. Here are some tips to incoming trainees on how to prepare for working from home.
Set up shop
If you can, set aside a place in your home and use this as your work station. Trainees, including myself, often find that one of the benefits of starting your traineeship is the symbolic divide between your work priorities in an office and the rest of your life at home. That allows you to switch off when you're 'off-duty', in contrast to studying at university where those lines are somewhat more blurred (as those who have engaged in the late-night essays and exam preparation can testify). Try to maintain the divide while you work from home - allocating a space specifically for work will help you achieve this. Ensuring that you take regular breaks away from where you have been working will also help you to work efficiently during office hours.
Stay in touch
Undeniably, one of the difficulties of working from home is adjusting to not seeing your colleagues as much as usual. Remember that this doesn't just affect trainees - we can all feel isolated away from others. The rest of your team will check in on you, and you will be supported to the same extent as though you were in the office, but you can also be proactive in maintaining strong communication with colleagues. This will help you keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening in the firm and reap the benefits of working as part of a team. On the social front, after-work drinks via video call are known to be arranged, and the trainee social committee has plans in place for helping everyone to stay in touch via virtual evening events and one-to-one sessions.
Take the opportunity to learn
Lawyers are playing a key role in advising people and businesses on how to respond to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. For incoming trainees, this is an opportunity to assist colleagues with urgent and important work in challenging circumstances. Clients will appreciate lawyers who are ready to provide help, your role in supporting the team will be valued, and these experiences of responding to queries in complex and unusual times will make you a better lawyer in the long run.
Remember - flexible working is the future
The UK and Scottish Government's advice to practise social distancing and working from home are temporary. But it is increasingly common within the legal profession that colleagues will occasionally work from home and at other times you may be required to work remotely, whether from client offices, travelling on work trips, or at court. Becoming adept at working remotely and working from home early in your career will stand you in good stead for the return to normality and for the future.