Opinions and Legal Insights

Working from home – it is still not as scary as it seems

Back in 2017 my working life changed forever! I finished as a partner in the Solicitors’ firm where I had worked for over 25 years. I launched my own consultancy business and have worked from home ever since. This was quite a culture shock at first. I went from being Senior Partner in an office which at one point had over 100 staff, to being a one person business! Regular 7.30am starts to open the post became a laptop login at 8.00ish… I am now approaching the three years anniversary and wouldn’t change a thing. 

For obvious reasons, many people are going to be asked to work at home over the next few weeks. In many ways it is easier for me because I am in control of my own business, my own systems and also data. But here are some tips that might be of use. They are directed at lawyers, that’s what I do, but might be helpful to others –

1.      Formulate a working day 

I need the structure of a working day to make sure that I get going. From the start, I made myself start work as close to 8.00am as possible. I allow myself a mid-morning break and force myself to stop for lunch, although Bargain Hunt on BBC can make this a challenge! I use Google Calendar to schedule calls or other tasks. I normally try to end the day in time to watch Pointless. My life does not revolve around TV, it is just a helpful anchor point for timing – ahem! Sometimes I might start later and I often start again in the evening but a structure, whatever suits you, is essential. If you are a lawyer and working to a task related system like Proclaim, this creates its own discipline.

2.      Identify a least one human being to communicate with 

When I worked in a busy office, my room was like Lime Street Station. People were coming and going all day, asking questions. Or I was in someone else’s room doing the same. Isolation is a worry if you are working from home for more than a couple of days. We all need somebody to lean on as the famous philosopher, Bill Withers once said. There will be moments when you need to run something past a colleague. Most mistakes, or worse, are made, when someone is left on their own. A fresh pair of eyes will usually see the wood from the trees. It is always important to have someone to talk to, even more so when you are working in a different environment. If you are an employer whose staff are working from home, you must establish a clear line of communication.

As an additional layer of support I have now set up am email address – supportathome@zohomail.eu for anyone who wants help with any issue arising while they are working at home. I am happy to answer your questions. If if don’t know the answer, i might know someone who does.

3.      Take advantage of work/life balance opportunities 

This is opposite of 1. When you are working in an office it is very easy to be drawn onto a treadmill. You sit at your desk and barely lift your head until it is time to leave. When you work from home you take more creative breaks – dog walking (dogs can be provided!!), a 10 minute news update, a couple of phone calls. The one advantage of being on your own is that you can’t disturb anyone. You can be as chilled as you like – although working in pyjamas would never suit me.

4.      Try to complete tasks in hand but also allow yourself some flexibility 

I do tend to flit around from task to task. If boredom sets in on one I might move on to another and then another …. I can end up with lots of tabs on my laptop but then don’t feel like going back to one that caused the distraction in the first place. So, I do now try and make myself finish one job before moving on. But equally, it is sometimes helpful to leave a tricky task for a short time and go back later. It is whatever suits you, but you should stick to it!

5.      Never let your guard down 

You may be at home but are still subject to the same legal and compliance obligations –

(a)   What is your employer’s data protection policy? Are you taking papers home? Many do. How are they tracked. Does your employer know exactly which papers are where? Before I left my former firm, I introduced a simple bar-coding procedure. If a file was taken from the office, for whatever reason, it was given a bar-code. It was scanned using a simple handheld device which recorded the file details, who had it, where it was and how long it might be absent. Where will papers be stored at home? Could an unauthorised person gain access to client data? You should check all of this. Employers – if you haven’t addressed these things since 2018 then you need to review them now.
(b)   This is not the time for a social media free for all. You still have professional obligations. You are still representing your employer or profession. Some of the worst social media disasters happen when someone thinks they are tweeting from the safety of their own living room. 240 twitter characters can be easily misinterpreted. 
(c)    What processes are there for checking post – in and out?
(d)   How is the recording of receipts and payments managed?
(e)   Employers – do you need to speak to your indemnity insurance brokers? If in doubt …

Summary I hope these are of some use.

Any other suggestions gratefully accepted.

This video from American vlogger Amy Landino also has some useful tips, particularly about the risk of weight gain!!