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Post-lockdown: what changes will you make?

25 June 2020 - By Taryn Gudmanz

We all had different lockdown experiences, depending on our work security and home circumstances. Some people found time to reflect on their lives and the way that they do things, and I saw a lot of hopeful comment on social media about how the lockdown would effect change and how things would be different after this. But will they be?

I would like to think so, but we need to seize change while we can. From what I’ve experienced myself and observed, once lockdown was lifted and we started going back to the office, we slipped back into old habits really easily. You probably went for a walk every day during lockdown – and felt much better for it. Are you still doing that?

If we are going to make positive changes as a consequence of lockdown, now is the moment to seize the opportunity to bed those changes in. You may have less work than normal, so use the time to think about lifestyle and workplace changes that will make you a better lawyer. If you have an increased workload, counter-intuitively you should still carve out time to think about your practices and implement changes.  The benefit to you in the long-term will be great.

Taryn Gudmanz

Think about what you enjoyed during lockdown, and what aspects of that can continue. I’m sure I don’t need to preach about the benefits of exercise for mental health. Even a lunchtime stroll could be beneficial – you will still be getting some much-needed vitamin D.

Our family had long intended to start shopping locally rather than with the supermarket, but we just never had enough time to sort it. Well, lockdown gave us the impetus to do that. Currently all our suppliers are still delivering and so we are still able to follow that model. The challenge may come if the delivery option disappears, but I hope the habit will stick.

Keeping the efficiency going

What worked for you in your practice? Can it continue? I had to work truncated hours during lockdown because of my children, but I found that I was so much more efficient during those truncated hours. I am now trying to figure out how to incorporate that into my practice, to force me to be efficient. I am finding that it is also helping with all the ‘life admin’ that I need to do, which is making me less stressed.

Maybe you found Zoom meetings to be really efficient and will try to keep doing them for some of meetings. Some juniors reported that they received better supervision during lockdown than they would usually receive. Some seniors reported that they found themselves checking in with staff in a much more engaged way than their daily casual water-cooler interactions had been. Do you need to think about how you interacted differently and how you can keep doing that?

There are practices in Dunedin which are trialling different working practices after having positive experiences during lockdown, and staff indicating that they wanted to continue. Some practices are getting staff and clients to work together to see if there are things that have come out of lockdown that they can continue to do, or that have given them ideas for future practices.

I am writing this from home, as I now have a proper home office set up. I am going to trial working some days at home (without children!) to see if it suits me. Today is a glorious day and I am looking out at the harbour as I work, playing music and I will slip out to walk the dog at lunch.  I have skipped the commute, and it is feeling pretty good.  It definitely will not work every day, and I would miss chambers. But currently it feels a bit liberating to have this new option available to me.

Lockdown has given us an opportunity to reflect and make changes; let’s use it.

Taryn Gudmanz is a barrister and mediator, and Council Vice-President - NZLS Otago.

This article first appeared in the June edition of Cur Ad Vult.

Last updated on the 25th June 2020