Walking home after my first day back in the office post-lockdown, soaking in a rare Scottish balmy evening, I felt like I had lost a limb. I had left my laptop – something which had, for the last 18 months, been no more than five steps away from me at any time – in the office. On arriving home, “phantom ring” set in.
I could swear I could hear my phone ring and my email inbox ping without the laptop even being in my flat. It soon subsided and the liberation of a physical separation between office and home swept over me.
Last month I finally qualified as a solicitor. To celebrate and mark the occasion, I decided to return to the office. I knew the rest of my team – the team I have been working with for the last six months – would be there and that I would be meeting them in person for the first time.
The night before going into the office I emptied the contents of my wardrobe to find my old office pass and some work clothes I could still fit into. I was filled with anxiety. While I knew the team had been as welcoming as they could be over email and video call, I had essentially qualified into a team I had never met in person. In fact, more of my traineeship had been spent working from the safety of my kitchen than in the office.
After that first day back in the office, once the initial laptop separation anxiety had worn off, I felt more relaxed than I had in a while. I filled this time catching up on LinkedIn, connecting with contacts and reading some articles which have been sitting in my bookmarks tab for months. Not only did the separation between home and office open my mind and attention to other activities, which may contribute to longer term development, but my adventure into the office also left me feeling rejuvenated. It was uplifting to finally meet the team I had worked with on numerous matters in person and discuss face to face the contracts or clients which had taken up my last six months. It was a real morale boost and reminder of why I chose this firm in the first place.
What was missing
For someone who considers themselves at times a bit of an introvert, it was easy to think I didn’t need the human interaction. I also believed that I worked better from home: able to keep my head down and zone out from any distractions. While I definitely believe productivity and efficiency can be enhanced in a home environment, I also realise now that I was losing out on the benefits of working in a physical team/office.
Although I may not get my to-do list done as quickly in the short term, I believe being back in the office, at least a couple of days a week, is essential for my development and engagement, as well as my personal wellbeing. I am excited to try a hybrid approach to working going forward and I am very fortunate to be with a firm who supports and encourages that flexibility.
I appreciate that the position on working in the office is dependent on Government guidance, and I understand the guidance currently to be work from home where you can. COVID is still rife, and we should remain vigilant to minimise transmission. Nonetheless, I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to return to the office where they can. However nerve-wracking you may think it will be, I guarantee that you are in for a pleasant surprise – a change is as good as a rest after all!
Melissa Laurie is a newly qualified solicitor in the TMIC team at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP
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