Covid-19 is impacting on everyone. No-one is escaping, apart from possibly the astronauts on the International Space Station. For the rest of us there has been a massive change to our working lives and our personal lives. The focus here is to look at the practical issues that arise from working from home.
The Data Protection Act 2018 is hugely important in looking after all types of personal information. There is greater responsibility for data protection and cyber security placed on people now working from home. The ideal scenario is to avoid having paper files and documents at home. That is not always possible. If you do have documents, ensure they are kept securely and not left lying in rooms that others have access to. That is not going to be easy for many who do not have a dedicated study/office at home.
Many areas of the law, particularly litigation, are moving towards being paperless. This offers new considerations from a data protection point of view, but also means individuals are more easily able to work from home. Indeed lots of lawyers were already doing so for some of the week. Some organisations with paper-heavy systems simply can’t function with home working. The lockdown will be extremely difficult for them and is likely to see a change to working patterns sooner rather than later.
From an individual’s point of view there are lots of considerations and also some advice relevant for everyone. Some people also have other responsibilities – home schooling, looking after young children, caring for others. At Clyde & Co, we certainly recognise that not everyone will be able to work in the same way at home as they did in the office. It is important to tell people that, as it’s likely they will be worried about this.
In an office set-up, employers have a duty to provide a working environment not likely to cause injury to any employee. When setting up a work area at home, the same principles apply. Ensure you have a proper desk/work surface, lighting, a comfortable chair, space to work etc.
It is important to separate your work life from your home life. Although you are at home it is crucial for your mental wellbeing that you remain in contact with work colleagues. It is not possible, or good for you, to sit in front of a computer screen for a day without a break or the opportunity to interact with colleagues. You should be in touch regularly by phone, messaging and video.
Now everyone is into the fourth or fifth week of working from home, it is also clear people are coping best by getting into a routine, taking appropriate breaks, fitting in exercise and having “water cooler” chats with colleagues.
At the moment, no-one knows how long lockdown will last, or how these weeks will change the way we work going forward. The initial feedback suggests people enjoy not having to travel to/from the office. There is the extra time they have but also the savings in terms of transport, parking etc. Other savings are made by not having inflated lunch expenses, or paying a dog walker or cleaner.
The lockdown has shown people can work as efficiently, if not more so, from the comfort of their home. People may not want to do this five days a week, but it is anticipated that a day or two a week is not unrealistic. That then raises the issue of the size of office needed in this new working model. You certainly don’t need a desk for 100 per cent of the people in the business.
The final thought relates to business travel. Everyone is engaging by phone, or video conferencing. Again the time savings from doing this are massive. There will always be the need for some meetings to be face-to-face, but not all, with the obvious benefit to the environment.
It will be interesting to look back in 12 months to compare the post Covid-19 work place and practices to where we were in the early months of 2020.
David Tait is Managing Partner, Clyde & Co (Scotland)