man working from home while looking after his children

Working from home in March 2020: Getting used to the new normal for us all


The COVID-19 outbreak has shaken up offices all over the country (and the rest of the world), and many people are now finding themselves working from home – some for the first time. Given the circumstances, I thought it was a good time to share my top tips on home working and looking after your wellbeing at the same time.

I have been working from my house in Wiltshire for the past 12 years, generally going into our Bristol office to see clients, candidates and colleagues one day a week. The majority of my team in the South West have also been working from home in some form or other for a number of years. We even have two colleagues in the Chadwick Nott business who have decamped to Scotland and both have been very successfully working from home permanently for the last few years covering regions in the South. However, I appreciate this is very different for all of us.


First of all, if WFH has been thrust upon you suddenly in the last two weeks, it is important to take stock and carve out a space to enable you to work effectively. Try to set up a defined work station, whether it is in your bedroom, kitchen, or wherever. If you have a PC, I suggest using it, rather than a laptop – it is better for posture. If you are using a laptop, try and set it up on a stand so you are not bent over the desk all day. Rather than using a small keyboard, see if you can invest in a separate keyboard – again, better ergonomically.


Make people in the house aware that you are now working, and explain that you need to have your quiet space, especially if you are on the phone. If you are on a conference call, make sure you know how to mute – from past experience that’s just the time when Amazon makes a delivery (resulting in loud dog barking), or your mother-in-law calls on the landline and leaves a very loud, long message on the answer phone! At least with so many of us working from home, everyone will hopefully be understanding of the trials and tribulations of trying to do this with family members around.                       


When working from home it doesn’t matter if you are working alone, juggling family responsibilities or self-isolating – it is so important to get into some form of routine. Ensure you have regular breaks – get up and walk around the room/flat/house. One of my colleagues does yoga – salutation to the sun, another will do the ‘plank’ for a minute.  Whatever it is, get up out of your chair, stretch your legs and move around. Do try and make time for lunch and, if possible, factor in some outside time - whether it’s a gentle walk/stroll or a run. Try and get some fresh air whenever you can. The advantage of WFH is you may be able to pick your breaks, so if the sun suddenly comes out and you are able to take an early lunch, seize the opportunity to get outside to put the washing out or grab that vital exercise break.


Bring nature inside – put a plant on your desk or a birdfeeder outside your window – you could be amazed at what you see.  If you don’t have a garden outside your work space, see if you can get a window bird feeder that sticks to the outside of your window. Importantly, try to go outside too - spring is on its way! Wherever you are in the country, you should be able to hear the birds start their chorus earlier and earlier each day.


As schools are now closed, many of us will have the trials and tribulations of trying to WFH with a number of children running round – whether it’s a pre-schooler, primary aged kids demanding attention, or teenagers wanting to get on the Xbox and sapping the broadband to your home – these are all challenges we are going to have to face. Set routines and follow a timetable. For younger ones, set them on nature/scavenger hunts if they can get outside; make collages – all ages love making a mess of cutting up newspapers and magazines and sticking them into a picture (just make sure the mess is well away from your work station!) and factor in home economics as a way to feed the family and entertain/teach cooking skills.

It is very tough but we can try and model good working practices – if they can see you focusing and working hard, they might realise they have to get on with their school/homework/revision. Allow them downtime as well – TV, games, drawing, reading, or whatever suits their ages and personalities.


Importantly, take time to speak to colleagues and clients. It’s the same as in the office – don’t just email all the time, pick up the phone/Skype and get some social interaction, even if it’s not work-related.  Factor in the “water cooler” time, so whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil, speak to a colleague – check how are they doing, what’s outside their window? Can they recommend any good box sets or podcasts? Maybe even share photos of your new home office, your view, or your pets asleep whilst you work. My tortoise did laps around the kitchen whilst I was on a team meeting conference call and then went to sleep in my handbag, which put a smile on the faces of many of my colleagues. 

Talk to your colleagues/managers/HR about any challenges and difficulties you are facing. This is the new normal, and an unprecedented time for all of us, so take time to get used to it and be kind to yourself and to others. 

Hopefully we will all get this through this quickly. Stay at home, keep calm, carry on and wash those hands regularly for 20 seconds!


Please contact Sarah Wood to discuss current opportunities in the South West legal market.


DDL: 0117 917 1859

Mobile: 07767897952

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