It’s not yet 6 months since our Prime Minister gave us the direction “You must stay at home”. That phrase was uttered on my Wedding Anniversary, and since then my wife and I have spent the start of the thirtieth year of our marriage in unexpectedly daily close proximity, with me set up (at a ridiculously small desk) in a spare room and she at a desk in our bedroom. My eldest daughter finished her dance degree “from home” and my younger two coped to a greater or lesser extent (often both) with remote schoolwork. My father-in-law who lives with us was shielding and the dog has renewed separation anxiety issues as result of a full house.
I think there are many benefits to homeworking, but I also think they are overrated, and I suspect that over the next year we are all going to be thinking very hard about the benefits of working from an office where distractions are few, dogs don’t bark during Zoom meetings and the washing never needs hanging out. For those that like to switch off their computer and then switch off from work when they left at the end of the day, that’s been more difficult too.
From the start of April, we began consulting with staff, then getting their “buy-in”, then getting them signed up to either go on furlough or to reduce their days at work. They were brilliant and understanding throughout and I am pleased to say that we have had no redundancies, and as of this week, all staff who had been on furlough are back working their full hours. What a team!
Each person has had their own challenges of dealing with COVID 19, and only some of these are work-related. The pressure on families and those living alone has been intense. Soon after lockdown, I began sending a weekly update to all staff. Originally conceived as a way to keep the furloughed in touch with the Mother Ship, the updates have continued and seem to be welcomed. They will become a permanent fixture and I suppose one day will morph into a newsletter if I can work the software.
We have also stressed the need for people to look after themselves and to tell us if they are not coping. We have a benefits programme for staff (implemented pre-COVID) that gives them access to a helpline, wellbeing tips and other health advice. I wonder if we are all doing as well as we think we are?
Most lawyers are working mostly from home on most days, though we have more support staff in the office now. We will be keeping an eye on the infection rates locally in South East London and working out whether we need more people back, or if we need to press the pause button and revise our COVID-secure policy. Planning is difficult.
As a firm, we are optimistic about the future though not complacent.
One thing that has got me through this period and kept me well is running. I put in a lot of miles, especially in April and May. This month, I am taking part with Imelda and two of our Michaels in a running challenge for BLG Mind. Our fundraising page is here should you wish to donate to a very worthy cause.
Getting through COVID, the possible second wave and the economic fallout will certainly be a marathon and not a sprint. But Grant Saw is determined to stay the course, with the support of our staff and of course our loyal clients, for whom we have never been closed.
If you would like to discuss any of the themes of this article in greater detail, please feel free to email me or contact me directly on 020 8305 4224.