Training during the Covid era – is it remotely possible?

10 September, 2020

When the first three week lockdown was announced in March, it was hard to imagine that many of us would still be working remotely six months later. As a trainee solicitor, being physically present in the office has always been an important part of the role. Attending client meetings, sitting in on calls and approaching colleagues’ desks to discuss work is how we have traditionally learnt. I will never take the luxury of being able to turn and ask my supervisor a quick question (or five) for granted again!

Working from home

Without much warning, firms across the country had to adapt to a new working world without the comfort of our offices. There was a speedy advance in technology in response, and as weeks turned into months, most people mastered the art of effectively working from home.

Communication is key, and I found telephone or video calls extremely helpful. This was not only on a supervisory work level, but also personal. Spending the day working in the same room you woke up in can feel monotonous and isolating, and speaking to other team members – be it about work or the supermarket queue you had to endure over lunch – provides a welcome relief.

As trainees, working from home can bring further challenges. Starting a seat without meeting the team and experiencing their work environment can make it difficult to understand how they operate. Having a supportive team is essential in the absence of physical supervision to ensure trainees feel connected to their colleagues and exposed to a full range of work.

Back to the office

As measures eased, staff were slowly allowed back into the Cripps Pemberton Greenish offices on a voluntary basis, and I now come into the office on average 4 days a week to work alongside my supervisor. In the Tunbridge Wells office, we are lucky that our spacious workplace and fantastic facilities team make coming into work again possible for all staff who wish to, subject to the limits of social distancing of course.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams have their limits, and nothing beats human face to face interaction. However, on the days I do work from home, I still feel connected to the team and have sufficient equipment delivered to my home by the facilities team to ensure I can work comfortably.

A highlight of returning for me has been restarting the team drinks trolley (albeit with a table replacing the trolley due to social distancing restrictions) – it was a welcome reminder of normality and the social benefits of office working.

Future flexibility

Whilst most of us look forward to the time when we can all get back into the office, the one upside of the pandemic is that it has, I believe, created a new sense of trust and transparency in working from home, alongside a heightened concern for employee wellbeing. In fact, the International Journal of Economics reported that workers embracing flexible working suffered less stress, anxiety and fatigue.

Personally, whilst I enjoy office culture and thrive off the social aspect, I welcome the opportunity to work from home on an occasional basis. Remote working as a trainee is possible to an extent, and clearly has its benefits. However, ultimately it is harder to replicate the support network available from colleagues whilst outside of the office. Going forwards, spending time in the office with our supervisors should remain a priority where COVID restrictions allow.