The year 2020 has been one for the books. We all have had varied reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic, from discountenance to extreme shock and then fear. The uncertainty makes it difficult to cast our tomorrows and the best of us have had our plans torn to shreds. In many ways, work as we know it has changed. In some advanced climes, Agile Working, which is a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints is not new. However, it is a totally novel concept to most of working Nigeria. A few employers were only just tentatively considering flexible working but have had to upgrade quite quickly to meet the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many young lawyers, work protocols suddenly changed, and we were hit by surprise after surprise. Nonetheless, we must be grateful for little mercies like the privilege of work from home (WFH) and technology. Depending on the integration of technology into the business of the organisation, prior to the mandatory lock-downs, the experience of WFH will range from pleasurable to difficult For some organisations, prior to Covid-19 WFH was an impossibility, desktops and analog systems were being used and such organisations have had to scale quite quickly and young lawyers in such organisations may have to go the extra mile to catch up. For some others, the transition was seamless. Notwithstanding the issues, the expectation is still the same, productivity, responsibility, accountability and commitment. Meeting these expectations from an open office where you have access to your colleagues is a tall order, you can imagine how it is where all communication and meetings are held remotely.
The obligation is even heightened with WFH as one is expected to do more to show they are connected. A little delay in responding may be amplified if it is cannot be explained and failure to return calls may literally be seen as gross misconduct. This reality is not going away so quickly, and it is important that we young lawyers make the necessary adjustments to ensure we show up for our team, we can be trusted and do not drop the ball. These are difficult times, so one will be foolhardy to think that they can be irresponsible with work without implications.
I share below a few tips that will help us manage this period where we are working from home and the realities which may ensue subsequently.
Get the work done: Your team is more worried about your commitment when working remotely, obviate their concerns by doing what you should, what is expected and where possible, more than is necessary.
Stay connected with your team: Periodic calls to members of your team will also help you manage emotions and keep them confident about your input and commitment. Your boss is not cruising during this period. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, is a popular saying but it is truth. Reach out to your bosses, check that they are doing well and also let them count you in as one of those who care about the well-being of the organisation and the team. Periodic calls to your colleagues are also very useful for connection. Some offices also have on-line parties just to maintain connection, suggest this to your organisation as well as any other means which will aid connection with the team.
Escalate issues quickly: As stated above, remote working creates an echo and it is important that you prevent tension in the team. Escalate challenges as quickly as possible, a delay in delivery by a vendor or third party should be brought to the knowledge of supervisors without delay.
Think outside the box for opportunities: The best of us are out of our depth during this period. Ingenious ideas are critical at this time and it is necessary that you think about possible solutions to the challenges peculiar to your team or your organisation. Do not just wait to be told what to do, craft solutions and be confident to share with the team.
Do not embarrass yourself on work calls: This is the most critical issue during this period, turn off your call sound and video as soon as calls are over so that you are not revealing unwanted secrets on a work call. Ensure professionalism all the same and that means you must play dress up for such calls.
Upskill and Upskill: There are so many free courses online and educative sessions being organized by different resource persons including the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). Do your best to learn across different subjects which are relevant not just for your current role but for your organisation as a unit.
I trust that we will all be witnesses to the evolution of the services market in Nigeria and how WFH is integrated into our lives, we must ensure that we develop along with or ahead of the trends.
I wish you all the best, please stay safe and stay home.
OYEYEMI ADERIBIGBE is a Senior Associate at Templars. She is also the current Vice-Chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum of the Nigerian Bar Association -Section on Business Law and the Young Lawyers’ Committee Liaison Officer of the African Regional Forum of the International Bar Association.