Kare Lawyers remains open for business.  We are a small office, Christina has Glen 20ed it to within an inch of its life, we are handwashing to the tune of Happy Birthday and following the Federal Government guidelines.  We are continuing to see clients in the office (sans handshakes of course) but we are also able to facilitate videolink or phone conferences if our clients prefer.

Of course, the government guidelines can change with a moment’s notice and we have plans to all work from home if that becomes necessary.  There will be no disruption to our business, client meetings or settlement conferences which can all be done electronically.  This is a very privileged position which unfortunately very few businesses or workers are able to adopt.

I am hearing from a lot of friends who are facing working from home, potentially with children if the schools close, for the first time.  The prospect seems to be daunting for many and some have even declared it impossible.

There is no question that there are many jobs which simply cannot be done from home.  However, technology and agile thinking is all that is required for some roles.

I have worked from home to varying degrees for many years.  With one of my children, I was working from home with a 6 month old (once through a full family gastro lockdown which I would not recommend!).  With the other, I was studying from home with a toddler and a newborn.

With the proviso that this is only my own experience of what has worked, here are my insights.

  1. If the work needs to be done, you will do it

Many people say that they are sure that either they or their employees will not work if they are left to work at home.  My experience matches my studies in Administrative Theory at Uni.  Work is as natural to the human condition as leisure.  If we are given the tools and ability to work and there is work to be done then we will do it.  I actually found it difficult to stop working when I worked part time and I was supposed to have dedicated days with my young children.  When I was job sharing, my job share partner would often ask me why I was logging in on my days off when she had it under control.  I completely trusted her but it was literally just habit.

2.  Children (and adults) are adaptable

With some people recently starting to work from home while their children are still at school, they are saying that it is great while the kids are at school but after 3.30pm, it is not possible.  This is a new situation for both parents and children.  In my experience, even with my very experienced children of a work from home Mum, it is more difficult working from home after school during term time than it is having the kids there all day.  When they are at home all day and you have told them that you are working, they will work out their own routine (which varies according to age).

I have also found that I have adapted to a base level of domestic background noise.  After all, we have office noise too – it is just getting used to different noises.  A former employer of mine used to work all day with a screaming newborn in her office.  When a client came in with a newborn she was able to take a statement without being distracted in the slightest.   I was so impressed at the time but I expect I could do the same thing now if necessary – it is a worthwhile skill to develop.

3.   Screen time needs to be rationed

This is not me taking the moral high ground nor is it true for all kids.  I know one of my friends who has a child with an ASD found that her son was calm and quiet all day watching Youtube videos of flushing toilets.  However, for my kids, no matter how busy I am, I will never be able to keep them occupied with screens all day.  They will lose the plot if I am home and ignoring them all day while I try to work.  I have to break up my working day as best I can to move them between activities to keep them occupied.

4.   Lists help

This is true for both me and the kids.  I spend a few minutes each night after they are asleep working out what must be done the next day and when it needs to be done.  This allows me to structure my work and then work out what the kids will need.  I also write out a list of all the things the kids need to do before they can have screen time.  The list for the kids has varied depending on their age but it always includes some form of “job” (although for very small children I use the term loosely!), some form of reading (audio books were great for early or pre-readers), outside play time and something creative.  As they have got older, music practice also keeps them occupied for a time although this cannot coincide with my phone call time.

5.   Phone Calls are usually scheduled for screen time

Some clients/colleagues will be understanding of phone calls which may be interrupted particularly by younger children but most will need my full attention so properly rationed screen time is the most reliable time for that.  As my children have got older, they are better at understanding when I cannot be disturbed but this is a bit much to ask of pre-schoolers.

6.   Schedule difficult/mentally challenging work for your best time of day

I find that I am most alert very early in the morning so I draft my most complex documents as soon as I wake up.  Many other people tell me that this is not a good idea for them and that they would prefer to do it late at night.  Either way is good as it is a quiet time of day when you are unlikely to be interrupted by kids, emails or phone calls.

7.   Don’t forget to eat properly

Breakfast and dinner are usually okay but I find that lunch is a painful thing to schedule when you are at home.  It is nonetheless important if you want to fuel your brain through the day and will unquestionably help keep you healthy through the pandemic.

8.   Try not to work if you are sick

I know that this is easier said than done but there is no doubt that you are more likely to make mistakes if you are both sick and working in isolation.  At least if your judgment is impaired and you are working with others there is a better chance that they will pick up your mistakes.

The upside of the pandemic is that it is impacting everyone.  Everyone will need to be adaptable and understanding as we all settle into our new and ever altering routines.