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When we set up the business, we made an active decision to be 100% cloud based. The principle was “We want to be able to walk into a computer store in Singapore, buy a laptop and be working on client matters within 30 minutes”.
So, software and technology decisions had to satisfy that requirement. When COVID19 hit we moved, almost seamlessly from River City Labs to our home offices. However, there were some changes we had to make.
Changes to processes when working from home
Different work environments require different attire and policies needed to adapt.
At IT Lawyers Brisbane (also Startup Lawyers Brisbane) we have to be fairly conscious of how we present ourselves. Our friends and colleagues out at River City Labs don’t want to see an overdressed lawyer strutting around pretending they own the place, so we are, like everyone else casual. That totally suits us (no pun intended). Of course, if we have to attend Court that is a very formal environment (which we try and avoid).
When it comes to working from home, we had to adopt a new policy regarding appropriate work attire. The recommendation from our friend and trusted graphic artist, web developer and all-round creative was to don the onesie. He even offered (threatened) to buy us one each.
Ultimately, we decided to go with smart casual.
Working from home blunders
It has not all been smooth sailing.
One thing we did not anticipate was the uptake of Zoom. In that regard we were left high and dry without a webcam. Ultimately, we managed to dig one out. An old Logitech was found tangled amongst a 20 metre cat 5 cable, two old ADSL modems and around 20 power cords which pre-dated my eldest son.
Our trusted millennial and newest employee, Emily, was quick to raise red flags about Zoom bombing and Privacy. In doing so she was volunteered to draft an article on it for our insights blog. Good thing she did because we now have more face to face meetings with clients (via Zoom) than we previously did pre-lockdown. Who would have thought you have more client interaction now you are working from home?
It has been great to see people in their natural habitats, the girl in the office who always has a messy desk actually lives in a pristine minimalist home. The old guy, who always works late, actually has his home office in the nursery with the baby’s cot crowding him out.
For Generation Xers like me, the office has become much more of a family affair. There will no doubt be more challenges in that department as the Queensland schools remain shut for at least another 5 weeks.
But some things have not changed
Well not much anyway.
Between client calls I still get out for my mid-morning coffee. While I feel bad for my local barista, I have reduced my weekly coffee expenditure since working from home.
Never before a supporter of multitasking, I have now been forced to become a little more adaptable. I have learned that certain tasks do lend themselves to multitasking and it is not altogether as inefficient as I once held out. This has made my partner very happy because now I contribute a little more to domestic duties. I manage to pick up the essentials when I do my coffee run.
That said, I always maintain that I pull my own weight. An eight course Indian banquet is not an uncommon treat at our house. We even have a special thali designed to be loaded up with spicy goodness. Being in lock down has seen our office food and beverage supplies improve, and girth increase.
Other ups and downs of remote working
Mixing work with leisure
Hopefully, these forced changes to working from home bring about some sustained benefits. Almost every workplace purport to offer a work life balance. Perhaps now we can put that principle to the test.
Some of my colleagues at top tier law firms have really noticed the difference. With their work hours cut by 50% they now have Sundays off and get home before the kids go to bed. I recently received a call from a corporate lawyer friend of mine for some parenting advice. He seemed genuinely surprised that children spent so many hours awake and out of bed.
Our own firm is a little different. Most of our clients expect us to ensure our employees are paid for every hour they work. Directors unfortunately are excluded from this. Like our founder clients we are still expected to do the obligatory 26 hours a day 8 days a week. The bright side of this is we now never even realise what day it is, so weekends come and go without us feeling bad.
For IT and Startup Lawyers, working from home still required us to rethink our policy on work life balance. Working remotely didn’t carry with it all the benefits we hoped for. For one the office furniture proved a little challenging. It may just be my old bones but after 9 hours behind the laptop, my eyes began to lose focus and the lower half of my body went from pins and needles through to complete numbness. It took me a better part of 30 minutes to be able to walk again. Clearly, workplace health and safety has climbed in importance on the risk register.
The other downside is we have only actually spent one day working with our newest employee. But for her photo on the website and the great work she was doing we would not even believe she existed. Surprisingly, and contrary to what I learned through my law career from previous “mentors”, I have discovered that people who have spent 5 years at university, been awarded multiple qualifications and held jobs that whole time, don’t actually need to be micro-managed within an inch of their lives.
That said as a principal of a law firm, I feel cheated by not being able to just look down my nose, at someone clearly smarter than myself, scribble unintelligibly over their hard work in a red pen, grunt incoherently and shake my head in disappointment. Even if that disappointment is really directed internally because I am watching young well-educated lawyers perform at much higher standards than I did when I was their age.
All in all, it seems we have adapted well to working from home. If anyone needs a one-on-one mentoring session, feel free to jump on Zoom and I am happy to share my experiences.
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