Corporate Solicitor, Addi Vantine, reflects on working from home with her family and the lessons she’s learned:
A shout-out to Ellisons’ IT.
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, I was used to being part of a team which operated across three different offices and I had worked from home only a handful of times. Ellisons’ significant investment in IT infrastructure over the past couple of years and the strong team culture of communication and responsiveness over Skype, email and telephone meant this arrangement worked seamlessly. This also means that following the transition to working from home full-time, I feel no difference in my ability to communicate with my team or service clients’ needs.
My work is at home. My home is at work.
I do not have a dedicated office space at home, I work from our kitchen table so the line between being at work and being at home has become quite blurred. I have created boundaries to help re-define this line: at the end of each working day I will shut down my computer and put everything to one side and on Fridays I shut down my computer at 5.30pm, put my work phone on silent and pack everything away into a separate room. This is the signal that the weekend has started; I will only deviate from this if absolutely necessary.
Prior to the lockdown I was commuting an hour each way, so I am trying to take advantage of the luxury of enjoying the evening sun as much as possible. Doing these things stops me from working into the evening just because the work is easily accessible.
Weekends are for being outside and making banana bread for Instagram.
‘Sorry – that’s my rooster crowing in the background. I will put myself on mute.’
I sit very close to the backdoors and I suspect my neighbour does too because I have genuinely heard her apologising for her rooster crowing.
Be aware of who can hear you when you are discussing confidential information. Part of my routine to pack things away each night is also a security measure – I do not want client confidential information left on a computer screen and viewable through a window.
Can I Share My Screen with You?
As a junior solicitor, working alongside my team in an open plan office was a key advantage to me in terms of accumulating knowledge. I do not have this benefit while working from home, but I have made a dedicated effort to my career development by increasing the number of webinars I watch, reading relevant LinkedIn posts and attending virtual webinars on insightful and relevant market updates provided by a local accountancy firm. Additionally, where I feel I need supervision the team is always ready to make use of our screen-sharing technology or make time to talk something through on the phone.
You Do You.
My team has a mix of people, some with children, some with partners who are also working full-time and some with partners who are on furlough (and fetch the beer each Friday afternoon). Working from home means that everyone is adjusting to managing different personal demands on their time while simultaneously meeting their work commitments.
Working flexibly as a team and being aware that everyone is dealing with different demands can ease the pressure on colleagues and help a team to work more effectively.
That ‘jumper’ you’re wearing looks suspiciously like a dressing gown…
I have heard many people say they need to dress smart to feel motivated to work. This isn’t the case for me. Since lockdown began my WFH uniform largely consists of: casual clothes, no make-up and hair tied up. This works for me but it is important to find what works for you personally. A word of warning: if you are going to wear pyjama bottoms to work don’t out yourself by standing up to get a drink when you’re on a video call with your colleague!
Everyone’s advice: make a routine.
The novelty of not having such a strict routine quickly led to me grazing on far too many Fox’s Golden Crunch biscuits instead of eating a proper lunch and rolling out of bed in the morning at a time when I would’ve usually already been in office! While I am absolutely relishing the slow starts and all the extra time we have in general, establishing a loose routine has helped me to focus and maintain productivity.
I know that the mornings tend to have less distractions, so this is when I prefer to work on things which require higher levels of concentration. I have a checklist of attainable goals so that even when I feel like I haven’t had the best day at work, I can still see that I have achieved certain tasks. I also make sure I have an hour away from work at lunch to read, listen to a podcast or just have a chat with my sister in the garden.
Red Notice by Bill Browder has been one of my favourite reads since lockdown – it is unbelievably shocking.
Corporate and Commercial ‘CoCoCorona’ Playlist – last week’s theme: Air Guitar Classics
Fact: I work with the best team. I am bias, of course, but I don’t know anyone else who has a Spotify playlist game which a partner created to keep us all connected!
Alongside the CoCoCorona playlist is a WhatsApp group that we are all part of, a mix of light-hearted mockery for song choices, memes and general chat. We also have regular video conference calls for firm related updates and workload discussions, which are occasionally gate-crashed by children and dogs. On Friday afternoons the conferences turn into virtual coffee breaks where the winner of the Spotify challenge is announced.
One of the hardest parts about WFH for me is being isolated from my team so I find these opportunities to interact a really nice way to keep up with each other.
My Motivation to Exercise: I Get to Leave the House.
On the weekends, if the weather is nice, I will usually ride my bike for about 30 miles. Since WFH, I have found that physically leaving the house to go for a run or just a walk with a podcast after work has really helped to make me feel that I have stepped away from work. Quite a few of us in the team upload workouts to Strava, which tend to be good talking points on the conference calls.
My Favourite Thing
WFH comes with a number of benefits, but one of my favourite things has to be the random intrusions of colleagues’ children into work-life. A friend recently shared a story of her colleague who was on a video call and her son was running around the room in the background asking for an ice-lolly. She had to say to him: ‘Andrew, I’m on a call at the moment, I will get you one afterwards.’ to which the son impatiently replied: ‘ahhhh!!’. I think it’s the sheer indifference to parents in work-mode and parents who can provide ice-lollies that amuses me the most. Children are part of life and its nice to see that we all seem to be making more room for life since lockdown.
Everyone is coping with this situation in a different way and the key is to figure out what works best for you. Do not compare yourself to others because we all work in different ways.
At Ellisons, our team continue to working remotely, and we remain open and will do everything that we can to support you through these challenging times. For latest insights please check our COVID-19 Business Support page.