Lessons from covid-19
The pandemic is providing lawyers with valuable lessons in survival, says Elizabeth Rimmer
As we gradually emerge from lockdown, we have an opportunity to reflect on the last few months. Most people – and the organisations they work for – have been forced to pivot over the past few months; and we believe adaptability will continue to be essential in order to thrive in the future. It is vital to see the challenges presented to us by the pandemic as a valuable learning experience.
Surviving has made us stronger. So what have we learned from the pandemic and where can that take us?
First, working from home IS possible. There’s often been resistance to it in the legal profession. Law has a culture of presenteeism – being the last to leave the office seen as a badge of honour – and many people have felt worried about even asking to work from home occasionally.
The pandemic has shown us that with the right technology, it is perfectly possible for most of us to be as productive working from home, if not more productive. While not everyone can or wants to work from home, many solicitors have enjoyed a greater work life balance and are in no rush to return to office life.
The pandemic has given firms and businesses an opportunity to find out how staff work best and what’s best for the business, rather than doggedly sticking to a ‘bums on seats’ approach.
For many, being allowed to work from home has had a positive impact on their wellbeing by allowing them to spend more time with the people they love – and on their self-care.
Second, law is about people and how they interact. We’ve been able to get more of a glimpse into people’s real lives on Zoom calls, with pictures on the walls, pets in the background and children interrupting. It’s made us all more human; enabled us to ask questions and share experiences; to ask ‘how are you?’ and really mean it.
We’ve been able to let our guard down. The lawyers who have thrived in this pandemic will be those who are self-aware, having high levels of emotional intelligence and empathy and a willingness to be vulnerable. These are traits not usually valued in the legal profession, but they will help us thrive and connect and communicate better with each other in this new landscape.
Third, values are key. Having our lives stripped back in this way by a force outside our control has given us the opportunity to really learn about ourselves: who we are, what our values are, what have we missed?
For many, it won’t be material things such as meals out and shopping; but reconnecting with simpler things such as a walk and time spent with family. Some of us have realised we thrive being around people while others have cherished time alone.
To be truly happy we need to align our working lives with our values as much as possible. Hopefully, the pandemic has made it clearer to us what those values are. Research shows that when we match our personal values to the values of our employer we’re more likely to be happy at work.
Finally, there’s the importance of looking after yourself. We often forget that the lawyer’s mind is their greatest asset. Lawyers who have coped well mentally with the pandemic will have realised early the importance of selfcare and prioritising it.
We have had many calls from people who have been working long hours at home and have not had the chance to get outside or see people. They have felt they can’t say ‘No’ to their boss – and these are the people who have been struggling mentally.
We would urge people to look after themselves by '¨exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep – and '¨to speak up to protect their mental health if work is encroaching on it. This will continue to be important over the coming weeks.
This is a marathon not a sprint. The true emotional and financial impact of the pandemic has not yet been truly felt. We need to look after ourselves to ensure we’re in the best possible headspace to be resilient and weather the storm.
If you are finding things difficult and need to talk, LawCare provides emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and '¨their families.
Elizabeth Rimmer is chief executive at LawCare. Call its confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email at '¨firstname.lastname@example.org or '¨access webchat and other resources at lawcare.org.uk