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Three lessons I will take forward from working from home

View profile for Sophie Read
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Three lessons I will take forward from working from home.

After working from home for the best part of a year, I will shortly be returning to office-based working on a rota basis three days a week.

With this phased return to office working on the horizon, it seemed an apt time to reflect on what I have learnt from working from home this past year and the lessons I will take forward.

1. Work-Life Balance

Pre-lockdown, I thought it was hard to achieve a work-life balance whilst working in the office (and it was!). But I quickly discovered that for me, it requires even more effort to achieve a healthy balance whilst working from home full time.

Whilst being office-based, I always had a physical separation between the office and my personal life; the office being in Coventry and my personal life being south of the M25. Working from home full-time changed that for me and suddenly my two parallel worlds became one overnight.

It took me a while to adjust initially but I now make use of the extra hours in each day I have gained from not commuting, utilise the flexibility of working hours when necessary and have achieved a lockdown routine which better allows for self-care, exercise and working productively from home. 

I will be returning to the office with a greater awareness of my own physical and mental health needs plus feeling fitter, healthier and happier. I am determined to carry forward some of these new routines once office-based working resumes. At my peril I plan to continue with the twice weekly HIIT workout classes with the fantastic Jo Jones, albeit I will need to do the earlier classes on the days I am in the office!

2. Mental Health & Self Care

Lockdown has undeniably had a significant impact on everyone’s day to day lives, not just our working lives.

I personally enjoyed the first lockdown, but lockdown 2 and lockdown 3 and the resulting need to work from home full-time, undoubtedly impacted my mental health. I have found ways of managing this and thankfully with the mutual support of colleagues feel positive and content with my new routine.

With colleagues and various new starters across the firm all no doubt going through their own lockdown rollercoasters, I wanted to ensure that as a firm we facilitated a support network whereby everyone had someone to reach out to.

I rolled out the Buddy Scheme earlier this year to try to achieve exactly that and to facilitate colleagues discussing their own mental health wellbeing, breaking down any perceived stigma attached to mental health and providing a structured framework for checking in with others.

Each of us have our own life experiences and can offer a different and valuable perspective to any given situation. For example, Amy, who is one of the firm’s newest and valued recruits, wrote an excellent blog on improving wellbeing at work.

The Buddy Scheme is still in its early stages, but with the assistance of my amazing colleagues, I plan to continue with the scheme once office-based working resumes and develop it further so that everyone has some support when it’s most needed.

3. Virtual meeting platforms & going paperless

I frequently wonder how we ever coped without the daily use of virtual meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Admittedly, pre-lockdown most of my colleagues were based in the office with me day-to-day and perhaps understandably didn’t want to see my face on the days we weren’t all in the office! However, during lockdown these virtual meeting platforms really have been a lifeline, not just with colleagues but with clients and other professionals too.

There will always be a need for site visits and face to face meetings, but during lockdown our clients have adapted brilliantly to virtual meetings and have been extremely patient with unexpected disruptions, which for me are usually dog and cat related and once was the electrician interrupting a client Teams call with a request to turn off the electrics to the house!

I have also been able to participate in a vast array of webinars presented via such platforms, from legal seminars and personal development workshops through to presenting a talk to University of Warwick students about life at a niche commercial property firm, all from the comfort of my living room. You can watch the talk here

I have no doubt that our use of these platforms will continue when office-based working resumes.

Finally, one further achievement most definitely worthy of note is that, save for my trusted notepad and post it notes, I have worked in a virtually paperless environment for nearly a year. I have occasionally had to ask colleagues based in the office to print engrossment documents for signature, circulate original signed documents and scan any post received to me when necessary. However, I am confident that the days of needing huge substantial physical paper files for each matter are quickly diminishing and remote working has facilitated a new trend towards a paperless office working environment.

Whilst working from home full time hasn’t been a choice and has been a difficult time for many, there are some positive life lessons which have come out of it for me and I hope that the same is true for others in similar situations.

Auhtor: Sophie Read 

19 March 2021