New Zealand Law Society - The Young Lawyers' guide to working from home

The Young Lawyers' guide to working from home

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Whether you were dragged from the office kicking and screaming, or you couldn’t wait to escape your supervising partner’s clutches, the working from home (WFH) life has been thrust upon us all.

While law firms have been typically slow to join the flexible working movement, COVID-19 has left us with no choice, WFH is now a way of life. No more crowded bus commutes, water cooler chat, or sneaking beers from the partners' fridge on Wednesday.

Whether the home office is your idea of paradise or a dystopian nightmare, the Auckland Young Lawyers' Committee have collated some helpful tips from “the experts” to make working from your living room a breeze.

1. Get ready

WFH experts typically suggest getting dressed as if you are going to work. The way you dress can affect your thoughts in a psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition. Putting on work clothes also helps the mental shift to “work mode” and sets boundaries between casual activities and putting in some billables. You are also less likely to find yourself distracted by other tasks when you are wearing something nice, you wouldn’t want to spill bolognese all over that new Camilla and Marc blazer now would you.

2. Get moving

It is suggested that everyone should engage in two hours a day of moderate exercise. While that seems like a lofty goal at the best of times (and particularly without a Les Mills instructor screaming at you) getting off your office chair is vital for your health. The lack of morning commute opens up a completely new section of the day for a walk around the block, a light jog or to smash out a workout. Exercise also improves cognitive function, making contract drafting just that little bit easier. Enclothed cognition also works for exercise too, so get those Lulus on and get moving.

3. Get caffeinated

Missing your favourite café? A solid cup of home brew coffee is an essential element in any WFH day. No chance I am opening OneLaw before 9am without three Nespresso pods in me (and yes, Nespresso are still delivering). If you don’t have a Nespresso machine lingering about, Noel Leeming will hook you up for around $200 (here) and if you’re really, really getting desperate, Service Foods will get you half a kilo of instant coffee’s finest in 48 hours. Not only will caffeine give you the motivational kick to get through a few chapters of Whale and Heath, but it has also been found that coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes.

4. Get set up

Balancing work and home life is a big deal for those who want to separate the stress drafting a 400-page affidavit away from the stress of dealing with their flatmates. While many of us below the partnership band don’t have the luxury of their own home office, it is important to carve out your own space. Stand out examples have been basements, sheds and garages, but whether it is a whole room or your very own slice of the dining table, it helps to compartmentalise the workday into a limited workspace.

5. Get ready to call it a day

It’s so much easier to push out deadlines with no evening plans to backstop the day. Why not watch all 10 episodes of Ozark season three over lunch, you can always start that sale and purchase agreement at 9pm. It’s not as if you are going to be late for the train home. However, pushing deadlines, and continuing to procrastinate is the start of a slippery slope. You are far more productive if you have limited time to accomplish a goal. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, so it makes sense to try to wrap things up by five or six, then kick back and enjoy your evening.

6. Get a hobby

In the early years of your career, being a lawyer can become all-consuming. Once you have cracked university and profs, the real learning starts and any spare time away from the office is usually spent trying to decompress or catch up with friends and family. COVID-19 has presented rare opportunity to find some spare time (unless you are in an insolvency and restructuring team, good luck). If further education is your thing, the CFA Institute runs a free Investment Foundations Program and Class Central has hundreds of courses available. A co-worker of mine is picking up Mandarin (Duolingo is great) and friends have picked up painting, drawing or photography. Otherwise, if you have had an epiphany that the whole lawyer thing isn’t for you, there is no better time to launch your TikTok career.

Liam Closey is a member of the NZLS Auckland Young Lawyers' Committee and an Associate at Lowndes Jordan. This article was originally published in the NZLS Auckland Branch newsletter.