Setfords Solicitors has more than 250 consultant lawyers working from home, and in 2018 won the Lexis Nexis Legal Award for Wellbeing. As the Government begins to ease the lockdown, Setfords’ co-CEO Guy Setford offers his advice to those in traditional firms who have been working from home and might want, or need, to continue.
Like tens of thousands of others in the UK legal industry, today our firm’s lawyers are working from home. The difference is, this was a choice they made – some more than 10 years ago. They thought long and hard before making the move to consultancy, many drawn by the potential of delivering a better service to clients, increased earnings and a better work-life balance. But each had to carefully consider if remote working would work for them.
Most lawyers in traditional firms didn’t have that option, and reports show some have struggled to adjust. Bupa says its workplace psychologists are fully booked for virtual consultations, and it has seen a 300% increase in calls since the coronavirus pandemic unfolded. Disturbed sleep and mood swings are just a few of the issues people are facing.
But I’ve seen the tremendous benefits of home working when it’s done right. Stepping out of interruption factories – what I call traditional offices – allows for higher productivity, more time with family and friends, and even better relationships with work colleagues.
Thanks to technology, you don’t have to be in the same space to communicate and form genuine connections. You might even find communication is clearer and more productive (a blog for another day). Certainly, with office politics a thing of the past, it’s amazing how relationships can prosper.
In many cases, it’s still being established how social distancing measures will work in offices, and some lawyers may find they either want to or will be asked to, continue to operate remotely.
So what does home working look like when it’s done right? I reached out to some of our consultants to get their thoughts.
1. Structure your day
It may sound obvious but structuring your day is crucial if you want to remain in good spirits and not get bogged down. Make a plan and stick to it. Make sure you have ‘home time’ and ‘work time’. Whilst it’s not always possible to keep the two exclusive, keeping this to a minimum actually makes you more productive and less stressed. Most importantly, avoid checking emails 24 hours a day.
2. Create a proper workspace
Even if you haven’t got a separate room as an office, create a dedicated space, one that promotes working. Sitting in the garden on a sunny day connected to wi-fi might sound appealing, and may work for some, but it’s unlikely to be conducive to getting stuff done, and lends itself better to a relaxing time with a G&T!
3. Pack your fridge and food cupboards with healthy foods
It might not sound important, but a healthy body really does equal a healthy mind. Working from home offers huge potential health benefits including the ability to avoid processed (and expensive) shop-bought lunches. But this only works if you ensure you stick to a healthy diet at home. Depending on what’s inside, sitting so close to your fridge can be a blessing or a curse.
4. Take advantage of the extra time
“When I first started working from home and gave up the daily trek to the office via car and train, I realised I was re-claiming over three hours a day. A massive extra 15 to 16 hours in a working week! It is a good exercise to work out what you can do with all that extra time. This is a very individual decision, but be aware of the extra time and the possibilities such as reading more or indulging a new or existing passion.”
5. Remember to exercise
Not having to travel to work is one of the greatest benefits, but don’t forget your daily step count. A simple exercise bike and set of weights, in or near your workspace, gives an opportunity to take short, regular exercise breaks in between different work tasks, something that would have been harder in a traditional office environment. Standing up when talking and making phone calls also helps.
6. Keep in touch
To combat feelings of isolation, it is important to stay in regular touch with work colleagues, not just by email but also on the phone or through video conferencing. This is important for sharing ideas and problems and maintaining the feeling of being part of a team.
7. Close the door on your workday
“Whatever your workspace looks like, at the end of the day make sure you mentally ‘close the door’ on your work. Although working from home requires some adjustment, this act of closing the door is key. There needs to be a mental distancing between work life and home life.”
Obviously, life for our consultants is somewhat different to that of lawyers from traditional firms, who are now home working. Our entire operation is set-up to support them. Our consultants don’t have billing targets, they choose their own hours, they decide how many holidays they have, and they take home up to 80% of their earnings. It’s why so many who step outside traditional firms never look back, and why both myself, and my co-CEO Chris Setford, are dedicating our careers to this better way of working.
While we appreciate it’s not for everyone, we do hope that as the world settles into a new normal, all lawyers in the UK can enjoy at least some of the benefits of breaking with tradition, home working among them.
If you want to know more about making home working a success, or want more information about becoming a consultant, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
Co-CEO, Setfords Solicitors