Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
A not-for-profit organisation representing injured people

SURVIVING LOCKDOWN – KEEPING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD

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Laura Bailey

Associate at Hugh James. Laura is also an APIL Senior Litigator and Secretary of APIL’s Welsh Regional Group.

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

Predominantly at home, although I have been into the office as and when I have needed to. My husband and I have both been working from home, so my exact location has varied between our study and my dressing room.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

In the beginning I think we were all concerned as to how this situation would work as we were not working from home at all before the first lockdown. We work very closely as a team and we were all worried about that aspect of the pandemic as we could not be physically together. However, we have access to Microsoft Teams and we very quickly became proficient at using that to speak to each other. Our team have a meeting every day and then we will call each other on an ad-hoc basis if we need to discuss a piece of work, and actually it’s worked really well!

Are you managing to maintain a good work life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

I think that this can be tricky as the whole day is spent in the house and there is no differentiation between work and home life. I have 2 small children, aged 4 and 2, and they tend to ensure that I swap between work and Mummy-mode! Although this can be difficult as there is no down time.

I try to do my work in one room of the house and leave that room for lunch and at the end of the working day, so that I can physically step away from work and do something else. I also try to set myself strict boundaries, otherwise it would be too easy to start working again every evening once the children are in bed.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

I think this would probably be how understanding everyone has been, especially our clients. I work in the Neurolaw team at Hugh James and our clients have all either suffered brain or spinal cord injuries, and they have all been through an extremely traumatic time. In the beginning of lockdown things were ever changing, and there were a number of logistical difficulties, such as signing documents, that we needed to overcome. Our clients and other businesses really have been so understanding as we have navigated our way through this new situation.

I am also aware that with 2 small children and 2 dogs at home, it can sometimes sound as though I’m in a mad house! I always apologise to people at the start of the call and make them aware that I am working from home, but on the occasion where there has been background noise / interruptions, our clients have always been extremely understanding and I am very grateful for that.

On a personal note, I also feel that working from home has offered me some more flexibility around childcare. My eldest child has just started school and it has been really nice to be able to have the opportunity to pick him up myself without feeling like my work is suffering as I have been able to go home and carry on working.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

Rather than equipment (although I am very attached to my laptop now!) I would say software. For me this has been Docusign. We had no real need to use this previously, but it really has enabled us to continue working without any issues, and have documents submitted on time. I have also found that on many occasions this has made the process of obtaining a signature much speedier. I will definitely continue to use this in the future.

Teams or Zoom?

Teams

Do you prefer home working, office working or a mixture? Why?

I like a mixture of both. I enjoy going into the office, and I miss seeing my colleagues and clients in person. For me, it definitely feels as though there has been a lack of human contact over the last 12 months! However, I do also enjoy working from home. As I have mentioned, I have a young family, and the days spent working from home do allow me a greater work life balance and enable me to do things such as collect my son from school which I would not be able to do if I was in the office all the time.

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Doris, making herself busy at work!


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Ahmed Al-Nahhas

Solicitor-Advocate and Partner Head of Military Claims at Bolt Burdon Kemp. Ahmed is also the secretary of the Military Special Interest Group at APIL.

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

Last March I started working from my home in South London. I relocated after the first lockdown to merge households with my parents in West London.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

It has been a year full of challenges. At the outset of the pandemic the challenges were mainly technical: learning about what can be done from home and how. We have an excellent IT team that has helped to explain even the basics to me. All the technology has certainly been available for a long time to enable homeworking, but I think people have preferred the office environment. So there has been an element of attitude adjustment for those who preferred working in the office.

As the year has continued though, the challenge has turned to welfare and wellbeing as well as maintaining standards, motivation and thinking of the future of the firm. The challenges have certainly changed. The focus at the moment is concentrating on getting through this and ensuring clients are served well. Sanity and health seem like a low bar but making it out of this with both would be terrific.

Are you managing to maintain a good work life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

To begin with, no! Managing a team took a toll on maintaining my work life balance because I made myself available at every hour of the day to support my team. Everyone works differently so I was really stretched. It became extremely tiring and I realised that I couldn’t be switched on when they needed me to be. I started taking control of my own diary to scratch things out where it was needed, to give myself the “me” time I needed. This “me” time is what you would get if you were going into the office – the time to spend with family, sit down and have dinner together or pursue a hobby.

At the start of the pandemic, I watched everything possible on Netflix as I suspect others did too. A friend recommended taking up calligraphy which I enjoy as a mindfulness activity in my spare time. I fulfilled a promise of mine to exercise for once. I make time each morning to exercise using free exercise regimes on Youtube – nothing to strenuous. I have been really fortunate in that I have had company from my extended family in the past year which has kept me sane.

I am also fortunate that I could take over my brother’s bedroom as a study (much to his annoyance despite the fact he lives in Bristol) and I have been sending him updates about the changes I have made in there! This gives me a door to close at the end of the working day. I know others are not as fortunate to have a designated office space.

Has the pandemic made you re-evaluate your business? If so, what changes do you recommend?

Our industry hasn’t been affected as much as others, business is very good and I am thankful for that. Although the core aspects of the day-to-day business have remained the same, we have ensured more regular contact with our clients. Some of our clients have really struggled with the events over the past year due to injuries and isolation and it is important to touch base and check in with them more regularly, to have a chat over a cup of tea and talk about next steps. Usually, we would be in regular contact with our clients but only see them potentially twice a year. It seems that our clients find more regular face-to-face interaction really positive. This gives them the opportunity to see the face behind the hard work and recognise that there is a human being on their side helping them with their case. I think this regular interaction should continue after the pandemic.

Zoom and Teams have also allowed more natural catch ups with colleagues who I may not have seen often before this year. You can just send them an invite for a chat. Although I see the benefits of more face-to-face time, I do often get Zoom exhaustion – I am not completely sure of the scientific explanation, but it’s no myth.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

There are a number of positives. As well as the more regular face-to-face interactions with colleagues and clients, remote working has made people appreciate that you can work from home. It has opened people’s minds to explore a better work-life balance: reduced commuting times and managing their professional and personal lives in a better way.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

I should really review the way I buy things since I am receiving regular packages from Amazon. If I could stop buying things, that would be great. Although, the best thing I have bought this year which has really helped with work and made a huge difference is my standing desk converter. It enables me to adjust the height of my desk from standing to sitting and it changes the way I work. I had a back problem prior to the first lockdown and I realised sitting down for extended periods of time is bad for me (and anyone) I highly recommend purchasing one. They are about £100 for a decent one.

Teams or Zoom?

I do use Teams because Judges and Masters seem to prefer it, however I prefer Zoom for its simplicity. It has become part of the culture – “I’ll Zoom you later” instead of “I’ll call you later”. The quality can vary, but it seems to have improved through the sheer amount of people using it. It is funny when someone forgets to mute their microphone and is having a conversation with someone else (or their dog) whilst in a large Zoom meeting.

Do you prefer home working, office working or a mixture? Why?

I prefer a mixture. Before the pandemic I would probably work from home once a week, because the firm has always been fairly flexible. I think in the future I would maybe go into the office 2-3 times a week but work from home the other time. It is human nature to crave that normal human interaction of chatting to work colleagues, shaking hands with clients etc. I would definitely need that normal human interaction on a weekly basis.

Photo – show us your desk!

Desk

I assure you that I tidied this before taking the photo! I was especially careful of which angle to take the photo from. If it was more to the left or right you would see the warzone…


Shauna O’Hara
Shauna O'Hara

Partner at Donnelly & Kinder Solicitors in Belfast. Shauna is also the joint co-ordinator of the Northern Ireland Regional Group at APIL.

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

Everyone worked from home for the first 2-3 weeks at the start of the first lockdown and since then I have been working from the office once or twice a week. It wasn’t fair to expect all the admin staff to be exposed to the office environment whilst everyone else worked from home, so I have been helping with all the admin and banking (which was when I became jealous that I wasn’t at home!) We are quite a small firm so we have a very hands-on team working approach. I managed to do all the photocopying and scanning post without any major disasters.

It has only been since the third lockdown where I have worked at home more – I have worked at home for the past 3-4 weeks which is the longest period I have consistently worked from home since March. My husband has consistently worked from home since March so he has the home office and I have a desk in the living room to work from.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge we have had is that a lot of our staff members are mothers who tend to pick up the housework and childcare whilst working full time from home – like myself – despite having supportive husbands or partners. There has been a need for more flexible working from the start. We wouldn’t work solidly 9-5 in the office due to distractions so at home we are more productive. No one is expecting them to be at their desk 9-5.

Are you managing to maintain a good work-life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

I am managing to maintain a good balance. I sometimes worked from home before last March to get some peace and quiet (although now I go into the office to get that!) In the office, I would usually work through my lunch and wouldn’t take a break. I now make the most of a lunch break at home by going on a walk. I walk a lot more in general now – my step count is great. I work out in the morning and take Oscar, my dog, for a walk. Then get out on my lunch break and after work too. I also sometimes walk to the office rather than drive. I think there should be a walking club in the office at lunchtimes for half an hour when things are a bit more normal. There are some lovely places to walk in Belfast and we should put our tools down, get some fresh air and exercise.

Has the pandemic made you re-evaluate your business? If so, what changes do you recommend?

The firm was well set up for working remotely because people worked from home before the first lockdown. It wasn’t difficult to adjust because we have a good case management system and we are relatively paperless. We also have cloud phones so that calls can be transferred as usual. There’s no reason why staff can’t work from home more often.

I think working from home will definitely continue after we return to a bit more normality because some staff members were commuting for a significant time – an hour and a half in the morning. No commute is excellent for them, especially since they have young children.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

Everyone has embraced working remotely and so we haven’t really suffered as a business. Resilience is a real positive, even though some people with young children have struggled and have found it difficult to find positive aspects of home working.

For myself, it has been quite positive to work from home more. It has been lovely to spend more time with my kids. They grow up so fast, and I feel like I may have missed out on valuable time with them because I have always worked full time. This has given me the opportunity to catch up with them. Even just being able to make them lunch is lovely – although trying to get them out of bed to do their school work isn’t so easy! Everyone sitting down for dinner at the same time together has also been nice. I always tried to do it, but now everyone is definitely able to sit down together for dinner.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

My 24-inch monitor has been a real game-changer. I was so excited about it when I first got it and I think everyone needs one. I found it quite difficult to work from a laptop all the time. I now use my laptop as a hard drive connected to my monitor. It is like being in the office and it is more comfortable for me to work from home.

On another note, the big hoodie blanket that my son gave me for Christmas has kept me warm whilst working from home, so that has also been a life saver!

Teams or Zoom?

Definitely Zoom. My monitor, despite being wonderful, doesn’t have a camera but Zoom is so easy to use on my phone. I can use Zoom anywhere and it is really easy.

Do you prefer home working, office working or a mixture? Why?

Probably a mixture. I feel bad for being at home when our admin staff are in the office. I go to the office because I want to support them and other team members. As I said, I can also get some peace and quiet in the office!

The office environment is also useful for attending remote hearings by Sightlink. Being in the same building as the barrister and client allows the barrister and I to discuss things with each other during the hearing and also provides the client with much-needed support and appropriate electrical equipment (and ensure that no one has a cat filter switched on!)

Photo – show us your desk

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Also - a photo of my side-kick, Oscar. He is always with me when I am at my desk.

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Jatinder Paul
Jatinder Paul

Senior Associate Solicitor in the International Serious Injury Team at Irwin Mitchell, Birmingham. Jatinder is also the Secretary of APIL’s International Special Interest Group.

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

Since March 2020 I have been working from my 7-year-old daughter’s playroom now turned into a joint playroom and home office.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

There have been many challenges adapting to home-working which were particularly challenging at the outset of the pandemic and the first national lockdown in March last year. Initially it was difficult to manage a team of 20 people because I felt that I needed to be available at all times, despite being extremely busy with my own workload. By the end of the first national lockdown in summer, I became more rigid with my work day. I thought it important to be able to get my head down and focus on my work as well as support my team and so some days I would tell my team that I would not be available, but other days they were more than welcome to knock on my virtual door.

In addition, connection issues have been a problem throughout the pandemic – something which cannot easily be solved.

Are you managing to maintain a good work life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

Working from home was challenging to maintain a good work life balance at the outset: I could open my laptop at any point throughout the evening. I often logged off at 5pm and logged back in at 7pm - 11pm which was unhealthy for my professional and personal life! As the pandemic has continued, I have become better at ensuring I work core hours in the day and leave work at a sensible time. Working from 6am – 3pm really works for me because I am able to have uninterrupted hours in the morning to focus on my workload so that I do not have to work out of hours.

‘Me’ time has been fundamental in ensuring a healthy work-life balance and allowed me to enjoy being active and spending time with my wife and daughter. I highly recommend ensuring that you set time aside for yourself to fully benefit from working from home.

Has the pandemic made you re-evaluate your business? If so, what changes do you recommend?

My team is now almost all virtual. The pandemic has made me re-evaluate the importance of having a paper-heavy personal injury department. Going digital has made for a more agile and modern business where documents are accessible, compared to the very slow movement towards digitalisation which was ongoing prior to the pandemic. We had to go from paper to digital almost overnight. This is now the new normal; to allow people to work more flexibly if they wish. I also think that your team’s wellbeing is crucial, especially today. Everyone at Irwin Mitchell was able to have a wellbeing day to use to do whatever they wanted last year: gave everyone a well-deserved and well-needed break from the pressures of a law firm.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

Working from home has allowed me to change my working hours so that rather than the usual 9-5 office hours, I am starting and finishing earlier. This is really beneficial for me in a professional capacity: I can keep up with my workload but it also gives me the flexibility to be active in the day and enjoy my family life.

The pandemic has also benefited our seriously injured and vulnerable clients. They are able to attend virtual meetings and hearings in the comfort of their own home rather than use their day travelling to the office or to court where it may be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. I have discovered that they really enjoy this new way of working too: they can take part in JSMs and get up to make a cup of tea in the middle if they want to.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

The best piece of equipment that I have used which helps with work is hands-down, my heater. I hate being cold and it has helped to keep my feet warm whilst sat at my desk early in the morning. My laptop stand has been really helpful. Admittedly I didn’t know what a laptop stand was prior to working from home. In addition, Microsoft Teams has been crucial in maintaining contact with my team, especially junior staff who require additional support and ongoing training.

Teams or Zoom?

Teams

Do you prefer home working, office working or a mixture? Why?

I think going forward, it would be good to have the choice whether to work from home or from the office. Ideally, I would like a mixture of both working from home and attending the office a couple of days a week. One thing which is missing when everyone works from home is the ability for the more junior members of my team to be in the room, learning by just listening to what is going on around them. I do make a huge effort to include them in virtual meetings, much easier these days, but it isn’t a perfect substitute.

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Desk

Brenda Gilligan

Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Ringrose Law, Lincoln

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

From home with just the odd day in the office or out seeing clients. I am lucky in that I have a spare bedroom which has become a separate office so I just close the laptop and the door at the end of the day and I’m done. I do not have any (human) caring responsibilities, so I can work in peace. I also have 11 acres of land, two dogs to walk and six horses to look after. I can see them from my bedroom window. I think this has been an enormous help in coping and an advantage many don’t have. But then I have been a solicitor for 30 years and worked since I was 15, so that’s always been the dream, really and sometimes I can’t believe I’ve achieved it. The pandemic forced the working from home dream to become a reality. It’s younger people who are bearing the brunt, I think and carers. Not easy for them in many ways, which will be a bit of an understatement for some.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

We were just on the verge of starting to go “paper-lite” at the start of Lockdown 1, but instead of a gentle learning process, we had to just pick up our laptops and do it! So we got that sorted out, with everyone kitted out to work remotely and IT support. We have some stalwart colleagues who have heroically worked in the office throughout and kept all that going, doing the stuff we can’t do, such a paper post and scanning. One of the great losses was seeing colleagues as real people as we do in the office and the general office chat, but we tried to keep socialising as much as possible using Teams for a weekly department meeting, which had a non -work element as well. We did a reverse Advent calendar, where every day a different member of staff put up a Christmas themed item on Teams. We try to be available for younger/less experienced staff so they don’t miss out on training and have included them in say, conferences with Counsel/JSM’s as they’re online now, so it’s much easier. We do a lot of training on-line. The offices have been made safe to see clients if there is no option, or we see them at home with proper safeguards and a risk assessment. We have a very hands-on Head of Department who keeps himself visible, which I think has been a great help in keeping people together and involved. We have worked a lot with our energetic marketing team, aka Alex, on PR initiatives, blogs and fund raising to keep the firm’s profile up and the work coming in. We have done office quizzes and newsletters and a photographic competition for a 2021 calendar. I think we also need to pay more attention to the psychological issues that are arising which never have before – isolation, for instance. We have people who have qualified as Mental Health First Aiders.

Are you managing to maintain a good work life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

I am personally. My danger is in becoming a complete hermit! Keep to a routine as you would with going to a work location. Dress properly as for work (well, perhaps not tailored suits and 4-inch stilettos, but I never wore those anyway. On the other hand, now’s your chance to try out 4-inch stilettos if you ever wanted to and I include EVERYONE in that invitation). Take regular tea breaks and stop looking at the computer while you do. I have got some special computer glasses. Make sure you move - it’s easy to find yourself sitting from 8 in the morning till gone 6 and thinking…oh…I’ve not moved all day… does my bum look big in this chair? Yes. No wonder. Keep hydrated and get out in the open, particularly if it’s anywhere near nice weather. Winter sun can be lovely on frosty days. Plant stuff. Try not to work too late - I realise this may be unavoidable for those with children or other care responsibilities. I think it becomes too easy to get into a mind-set that there is nothing else but work in a pandemic, so you have to make a point of reminding yourself that there is and do non-work things and make time for non-work friends.

Has the pandemic made you re-evaluate your business? If so, what changes do you recommend?

I can’t speak for management, but I think we have shown that it is possible to work flexibly and accommodate other than the traditional 9-5-in-the-office working day format. Not only that, but it can be more productive. Changes? We need to appreciate and promote the “human” part of “human resources” more. People want to work, but they need to be enabled to do that. We can do that with technology. I have to accept it is the future, so we need to make it work for us.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

No commuting = so much less stress, not so tiring and saving money. Putting the washing on, hanging it out to dry, bringing it in especially if it starts to rain. All in the same day! Appreciating seeing real people rather than pixels and to talk properly without a delay on the dialogue. Actually being able to watch the seasons develop and pass, which you can tend to miss in an office in a city. Arranging your day yourself which proves perfectly possible. The way the department has worked and stuck together as a coherent whole in difficult and complicated circumstances. Some defendants becoming actually reasonable – well, for a time anyway. HHJ Godsmark getting personally stuck in at Nottingham and related courts and putting out regular information and listening to practitioners to try and keep it all going.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

Biscuits. Gin. My dogs and cat keeping me company in the office. Headphones to plug into the laptop to make and take calls – brilliant for someone stone deaf like me.

Teams or Zoom?

Teams, but we can’t use Zoom anyway. Some Counsel have some others that have worked well for conferences or RTM/JSM’s and you kind of need separate “rooms”.

Do you prefer home working, office working or a mixture? Why?

Home, no question. But it suits me in my circumstances and that’s why we have to be flexible. I am not ancient by any means, but I am older and you know-willing spirit, weak flesh and all that. Flexible working can extend a working life. Parents can work partly from home and so still keep working without neglecting family to do so. I still like seeing clients and colleagues and I think actual attendance at training events is valuable for exchanging views and ideas with others (and gossip…) but some like the office environment and the social side. I think I do need to go into the office again more regularly when we can, otherwise I could easily turn myself into an Anchorite. So, a balance, but tipped towards working from home. I can see the argument that some people don’t want their home invaded by an “office” taking up space. I get that.

Photos – show us your work environment and what you have been getting up to!

Taking up a new hobby - making ancient monuments out of biscuits is a good one!

My assistant Greta relaxing after a hard day in the office!

The Outdoor Office


Richard Clark
Richard Clark

Chief Executive Officer, CFG Law which operates nationally from offices in Cheadle and Manchester and consulting offices in Cambridge, Oxford and Sunderland. Richard is also an associate member of APIL and an active participant of APIL’s Membership Engagement Panel

Since March 2020, where have you been working?

I have been working from home. We kind of predicted back in February what was coming – we could see it from the news and so we started working from home the week before lockdown. The firm was already equipped to do this anyway, so we went straight home and it was more a question of getting everybody settled, over a period through April into May. Everything worked, it was more about familiarisation. We had only ever used Teams in conference rooms before, so it was about learning that you could do this from home, on your work laptop, and your home PC too.

We allowed people back into the office in August, if they wanted to go, but had a very small uptake. I think the most we ever had in the office at one time was about 10 out of a population of 70 staff. That carried on until the next lockdown. I have been back into the office just once since last January.

What challenges have you and your colleagues experienced and how have you overcome them?

The challenge wasn’t the technology, the challenge was children at home, partners at home. I appreciate that I have an office but I know that some are sharing dining tables, both partners doing video conferences, children coming in with their homework. So colleague wellbeing has been key.

I do a video every Sunday or Monday morning, giving my view on the world at large and the week ahead. There is also a bulletin which goes out to everyone three times a week – it is all about what is happening on individual cases, so people can learn from those cases, things going on in the wider world, with experts and so on. So there’s a regular form of communication. I think we communicate better now than we did before and have cut the amount of email traffic between staff too.

For the first two months, we had business continuity calls every morning at 8 am and every team spoke to their team leader every morning at 10 am. That was really important to help understand what was going on in the business.

The other challenge has been the clients and how they have been affected and how you contact them. Clients traditionally wanted to come into the office or we would go out to see them. Then we had to introduce them to Zoom and some of them wanted to use WhatsApp, for example, so that was a challenge for them and us. We had not anticipated it would be the issue that it became, but by the time we got to June, we could re-plan their cases, speaking to clients, looking at their circumstances differently, and go to insurers with different proposals, interims. When we went into this most recent lockdown, one of the first things we did was call our clients and that mattered to them more than we ever realised it would, given how vulnerable so many of them are.

Are you managing to maintain a good work-life balance? If so, what tips do you have for others? If not, what is your experience?

Yes, I’m not commuting for three hours a day. I have got into the habit of getting up at 6 am and going out for an hour cycling or at this time of year I go on my stationary bike. I’m fitter and it’s made me look at things differently again. For example, working hours: one of the team used to work 9 am to 4 pm. She now starts at 5.30 am and finishes at 11.30. am - it wouldn’t be my choice! But it suits her and her husband, and when we came out of the first lockdown, she carried on with those hours. Another member of staff now works on a Sunday rather than on a Thursday. It suits her and her family and she has a different relationship with her clients who are sometimes happier to speak to her at the weekend because it suits them too.

The firm puts yoga classes online at lunchtime and people in the firm seem to be happier and talk about not commuting. I admit that I do miss the commute in some ways – that time spent speaking to friends on the way home, for example. But I’m not going back to five days a week commuting.

There are a few things to get a better balance. It is so important to get outside every day. We make a point of going out for a long walk as a family every Sunday, exploring areas that we never knew about locally before. Also, speak to one another, not about work. We no longer walk past each other’s desks for a chat, so it is important to just ring each other for a social chat like they would in the office. Take part in events: online quizzes or yoga at lunchtime. There’s a murder mystery evening planned this week! Most importantly, stop working: whenever that will be for them individually. The expectation is that the service is delivered to the client but if you want to move your hours around, then make sure you work them and then stop. Get outside, stop for a coffee, and don’t just sit at the desk all day. Share thoughts and feelings. I have shared my anxieties – to say it is normal to feel like this. I also shared how much I enjoyed going into the office – so many people said it did them good to go in even just once or twice.

What positive aspects of work have you taken from the pandemic?

I have wanted to do this for about three years: I have always maintained if we employ people we should trust them. If we equip them, then we should let them choose where and how they work. Ultimately the focus has to be on the client. I have struggled to get people to genuinely believe that as a law firm it can be done that way. I found myself working from cafes and libraries just to demonstrate that you can do your job from these different environments. So when this happened, we had all the technology and people suddenly realised that we were serious: we did trust them to do this and that’s a real positive.

I have higher productivity than I had before, I’ve had amazing comments from clients, and it all comes down to people embracing this and getting on with it. There is no pressure from me or senior management to get people back into the office. It is about working how you want to work and we will continue with that in the future. We certainly won’t be opening an office for 70 people in the future. The new office I have just finalised on will let us go to a new location and a maximum of 12 people. Over time I am sure there will be more than 12 people based from that office – just not all there at the same time.

What has been the best bit of equipment you have used in the past 12 months to help with work?

My air pods. They are the best thing I have ever bought. I exercise with them on, I do all my phone calls. I know what everyone looks like now, so I walk around the house or the garden talking to them on these instead. They are brilliant.

Teams or Zoom?

Teams and has been from day one. We have Zoom accounts for certain relationships we manage, we also used Zoom for breakout rooms, but that has come online with Teams over Christmas. Teams is the way to go. My daughter likes Zoom! Occasionally I get thrown if I have to go on Webex or GoToMeeting. I didn’t know about Teams before all this and it is so easy to use.

Finally, show us your desk

Here it is

Desk