Going from a 45-minute commute from Beckenham to no commute at all has its benefits for Bird & Bird trainee Alex Kelly – who has started his second seat in the real estate team after completing his first in commercial.
Rather than sitting on a packed train in the morning, Kelly now wakes up, does some exercise outside and plays with his family dog and cat.
He then walks a few steps to sit at his desk, make a to-do list and get on with work – taking shorter, more frequent, breaks. He says that he works better in short bursts but the downside of this is that he usually ends up “seeing off a few bowls of cereal – usually Crunchy Nut – in those breaks”.
The biggest thing that has changed for Kelly since Bird & Bird’s City office was told to work from home is administration and communication.
“It is strange to think how much we took for granted having an office with an on-site workforce at our disposal. Printing, copying and sending hard copies of documents is all trickier now,” he says.
Communication is another challenge for Kelly – specifically, trying to get 10 people on a conference call, then trying to figure out whose turn it is to talk and why it “sounds like one associate is dialling in from the International Space Station.” Face-to-face communication is key for any team and this is something that is taking some time to get used to but the real estate team is having regular catch-up calls, while trainees have a virtual coffee every few days.
“I think that the impact of Covid-19 has been so extensive that everyone accepts that everyone is affected in some way, so we are all just getting on with what we have to do,” Kelly says.
One thing that has added to his workload is clients looking to the firm for advice on how to deal with coronavirus-related issues:
“We are receiving a lot of requests to advise businesses on how their contracts will be affected by coronavirus. The more you sit and think about the impact, the more issues you can come up with that need to be addressed: employment contracts need a review of sick pay and salary provisions; construction contracts may need an amendment to defer commencement; rent provisions in leases for retail and restaurant clients need scrutiny; litigation may be suspended as the courts are under pressure to close; supply chain contracts may need an amendment to account for delays/restrictions on the movement of people and goods.”
“I don’t think there is any general advice you can give; businesses need to pull out their contracts and scrutinise them closely.”
But back to the commute. Not having a train journey means more hours in the day and for Kelly, that means getting more done during working hours rather than having to stay late. Prior to being told that he, along with everyone else in the UK, would have to work from home Kelly’s workday would start at 9am and finish at 7pm. He then would fit in the gym after that.
Now he has more time in the evenings and is hoping to use it to improve his cooking skills, although he admits he sees himself looking back in six months’ time and wondering where it went wrong as far as that is concerned.