The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on how we work and how business is conducted both on a local and a global scale. During isolation, it is no surprise that some of our staff are feeling isolated. In light of the announcement by the UK government that lockdown has been extended and with little clarity for when these measures may be relaxed, staff at Jones Chase outline the joys and struggles of working from home during this confusing and uncertain time.
1. What have been the positives of working from home?
Having greater flexibility with working hours is a positive for some of our staff. Although the firm ensures that there are always people available during working hours so our clients can reach us, we do have staff members who prefer to begin work early in the morning and those who prefer to work into the later hours in the evening.
Although our offices are London based, we have staff who travel from other parts of England to get to work each day. With the vanishing of our daily commutes, staff have found that there are more hours in the day to complete tasks without feeling over worked.
Home life for our staff varies and those with housemates and adult children have found it easy to focus with less distractions than our vibrant office space. Those who live with other people have also found that they have the opportunity to spend quality time with their loved ones. Parents are feeling less “guilt” from being away from their children and this is having a positive impact on our staff and their families. Life feels less rushed for all of us, and some are enjoying this slower pace.What have been the challenges of working from home and how have you dealt with these?
2. What have been the challenges of working from home and how have you dealt with these?
Jones Chase staff have confessed that life in lockdown can become very sedentary. Getting up to make a cup of tea only requires taking a few steps from your work space to the kitchen and not having colleagues to interact with means that you can find yourself sitting in front of your laptop for hours on end without taking a break. In order to deal with this, we have staff members who are taking their dogs out for a walk during their lunch hour and others who are flexing their muscles with lunch time workouts.
It is easy to feel like you are a prisoner in your own home as getting out of the house is a luxury these days. Staff have found that it is important to have a designated workspace that you can pack away at the end of each day or week. For some of our staff, this is a designated room in their homes where they work. For others it has involved clearing out a drawer to put their laptop into on Friday evening. It is important to have a working space that you can “shut the door” on so that you can transition from work to play.
In some cases, staff with childcare or family responsibilities have found that members of their household think that because they are at home, they are there to do the household jobs. Depending on how much space you have at home, people encroach into your workspace and work routine and daily structure has been disrupted. One way to navigate this is to have defined work time and family time. This is particularly hard for those households where both parents work, and some of our staff are working reduced or flexible hours in order to alleviate this stress.
3. How has communicating with clients changed?
Due to the nature of the work we do, with much of this being done over the phone or by email, the way we communicate with clients has not changed considerably. Although we do miss seeing our clients face to face and visiting their offices, we have invested in video conferencing technology to allow us to see our clients, albeit through a computer screen as regularly as they would like to see us.
Additionally, in order to assist our clients at a time when the face of employment law is rapidly changing, we are holding a weekly webinar to answer questions and to provide legal updates. Some of our clients are seeing us more than they normally would!
4. How has communicating with your colleagues changed?
As a firm we really value flexible working as it allows us to have a diverse work force, and this has been part of the package offered to staff from day one. Therefore, we were one of the lucky businesses who already had systems in place to support home working during this pandemic.
Our office-based staff have found the change difficult to some extent. Jones Chase is proud to have a collaborative workforce who work well as a team. Working from home required drastic adjustment to the way we work in order to establish a “new normal”. At times, it can be frustrating not being able to get hold of someone to bounce ideas off one another, but the firm has invested in technology which allows us to (virtually) see each other as frequently (or infrequently!) as we wish. The way we communicate has changed but we are still very much in touch with each other throughout the working week.
5. Anything to add?
Due to the kind of work we do, we have always maintained that it is difficult to go “paperless”. However, in these conditions where we have had to, we are pleased to say that Jones Chase is operating in a much “greener” way.
We have all had to change and adapt working patterns and methods which is challenging but the benefits have been fantastic. Developing new ways of working has shown us that we are able to cater for our clients, no matter what location we do this from.
6. Top tips for employers
It is important to recognise that your workforce are all different people with different home lives. Check in with your employees to see how working from home is going for them. Discuss whether they have the equipment they need to carry out their work properly. If the business can afford to do so, supply employees with any equipment they may be lacking.
Consider your workforces’ mental health as this is a difficult time for all of us. Look to have an open and honest discussion as ultimately, this will increase efficiency which will benefit the business. In order to find solutions for problems, both parties will need to be flexible.
Management needs to be direct. Give clear instructions and provide staff with reasonable and unambiguous deadlines. Remember to praise and thank your staff for what they are doing when they are doing it well. This will remind people that they are valued which is essential for morale and productivity.
Try to organise social activities for staff to participate in from home. Jones Chase has opened its very own virtual pub and the bar is very crowded each Friday evening for after work drinks!
If you would like further tips and pointers from us on how to ensure your staff keep motivated and inspired during this time, please contact us and we would be happy to assist.