Working from home can bring its challenges. Here’s a lovely piece by IP Futures committee member Giovanna Viganò (Cleveland Scott York), about the particular issues facing some more “junior” IP professionals. To be honest, many of us will relate to these whatever our career level.
In many firms, “juniors” were not allowed to work from home. It was a luxury granted only to partners and senior associates. We dreamt of working from home! We dreamt of:
- reducing the commute to the office from 30 mins by tube/train/bus to 10 steps from the bedroom to the living room – maybe less if you live in a flat in London;
- working in a comfy outfit – otherwise called PJs;
- managing our time as we prefer – ie, what time to start, what time to finish…
- munching on our favourite crunchy snacks without receiving judging looks from our colleagues.
Now, we have been asked to work from home to face the Covid-19 pandemic. Were we ready to do so? Maybe not – given the short notice.
After a few days of wfh, many of us have started dreaming of:
- two screens – since many of us are now working with a 13/15″ screen;
- laser printers – since many of us were used to printing lots of documents, reading them on paper and scribbling on them. Now we need to get used to paperless working and reading lots of docs on the above-mentioned teeny-tiny screen;
- support from our team – many of us work in teams (ie, paralegal, secretaries, senior attorney, junior attorney,…) with “well-oiled” processes in place. Now we need to create new processes and find different ways to stay connected with our team;
- our chatty colleagues – since now the options for chit-chats might be reduced to at least one of: yourself, your dog/cat, your other half;
- a more structured working schedule – since we have found out that it can be hard to motivate yourself to make a start and/or to avoid distractions. Also, we have realised that it is quite hard to find a definite finish time when we cannot just walk away and put the day’s work behind us (there is always a last email to read at 9 pm!);
- a special padlock for the fridge and the cupboard with our favourite biscuits.
We need to learn a different way to work and this requires some adjustments. Please share with us the difficulties you are facing and some tips which you have found to be helpful.
REMEMBER: we are all learning how to do it! You are not the only one. Together we can do it!
Please join the conversation on the IP Futures LinkedIn page or share your thoughts with the IP Futures group. You can also contact IP Futures by email if you need support with specific issues to do with your new working arrangements as an early-career IP professional. And you can read more about working from home in the IP Inclusive LinkedIn group – or listen to our webinar about its mental health impact (see our Events page).
Page published on 30th March 2020
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Giovanna: I really do appreciate that this all happened very fast and with very little preparation for those more junior in the profession. I accept that when I (had to) first start WFH, I was lucky enough to be senior (I ran the industrial IP department in which I worked) and therefore everything was just set up for me as a matter of course. However, when I was a junior I did not work in a traditional Private Practice environment and I think that in a way this helped, because even when starting out in the profession, I was quickly "dropped in at the deep end" and had to fend for myself with fairly the little support from my 'managers' and my work involved negotiating with people of much higher rank than myself. I pretty soon had to become very flexible depending upon the different people with whom I was working. Julie: You are quite right that there are many different personalities and circumstances that dictate how you adapt to life WFH. Personally, I am very extrovert and loved working in an office environment where I had friends and organised lots of events. Unfortunately, in my case, health problems meant that I eventually could no longer cope with the conventional office hours, stress and demands, so WFH was the only way that I could continue to do the job I loved. At first, I found it very hard and lonely (particularly as I didn't really have a choice about the way that I ended up organising my working day). However, as you say it forces you to focus on the positives and become much more flexible and experimental in your approach.
Dear Debra thank you for your comments and sharing with us your ten-year experience. I agree with you: this situation can be an opportunity to create new (and more efficient?) internal processes, new (and more direct?) ways to communicate with our colleagues and, for juniors, this can be our chance to become more independent. This is all good....however, we were used to work in a certain way and now, all of a sudden, we have been asked to improvise. This could be easier for some than others. I am sure that this will become the "new normal" but it requires time and adjustment. I don't think it is as immediate as it might seem. Gio
It's really great that people are noticing so many differing aspects of WFH. What should be becoming clear is that there is no 'one size fits all' and, even for great advocates of working from home (WFH), there are disadvantages. Equally, those who have resisted the trend towards increased WFH over the last 10y or so, are now noticing some benefits. There are so many variables that might affect our perspectives, but exploring these and learning about how we or our teams best work is a potential (albeit enforced) bonus. Some of the variables are: • Your personality type, e.g., introverts may love WFH more than extraverts • Your work role & responsibilities, e.g., juniors who need more support/discussion with peers and mentors may find it harder than seniors who need to consult in that way far less (and who may long to be away from repeated office interruptions and distractions from central issues) • Your domestic roles & responsibilities, for example, if you have 3 children under 5y running amok or primary-aged offspring needing to be taught (by you!) or teenagers suffering separation from romantic alliances, sports team activities or exam angst, you may be towards the ceiling by now, whereas those who don’t have or have shed their family responsibilities are likely to be less fraught • The facilities you have at home – and what budget you have/have been allotted to upgrade (e.g. to an extra screen, faster printer, dedicated work mobile etc). Again, those with budgetary control or already set up this way will find things easier • Whether you’ve WFH before or not (obvious one, that!) • Whether you are good, or at least practised at, compartmentalising work and domestic time and resources • Whether you can allow yourself to specify clear, firm but polite boundaries to separate work and home life – and keep those in balance • What effortless benefits (or disadvantages) accrue from WFH, e.g. those with long commutes should immediately benefit from having more time – for everything, whereas those who can walk to work will probably be missing the routine exercise • How many others in your domestic set-up are also trying to wfh (or study seriously from home) and the basic facilities you have for sharing and/or separating out a bit (can each have a desk/table, chair, lamp?). For example, as I write this, I can hear my daughter’s LPC seminar leader holding forth from her laptop in the next room – studying from our only desk while I am at the kitchen table • Etc etc But, whatever situation each of us finds ourselves in, the key is to be flexible and experimental – take a few minutes time each day to consider what fits you, what works in your set-up, and try to upscale the benefits to you (which hopefully will then feed positively into results for clients, your supervisor(s), your organisation). Gaining the potential benefits may require you to ask for what you really need and may be subject to negotiations, not just with ‘work’ people if necessary but also your household. What you learn through this may surprise you, and may be something you refer back to as your career develops and options arise. You just may end up making more informed decisions in future about what works for you (or your business) – and pursuing that where feasible. Oh! Me? Ah - I love WFH. And I love working in a traditional office set-up! I have done both, alternating quite a bit, through my IP career: the key is adapt; be flexible - you never know what life will throw at you! So if you have any queries/like some tips/want to sound off ... do get in touch. I wish you the best of health. Julie (Julie.Barrett@PurposiveStep.com)
Welcome to your dream of "FREEDOM". Whilst, I appreciate that this "lockdown" (working from home) all happened rather suddenly, whereas I had the opportunity to ease into working from home over several years my biggest question to you is WHY ... Problems with reading on-line documents on "teeny tiny" screens I can understand and like your desire, up until recently I used to have 2 screens side-by-side: 1 for work & 1 for personal use. However constantly switching between work & personal stuff just takes far too much time. What you really need is a bigger screen so you can arrange multiple documents side-by-side. I was provided and still have a printer/scanner/fax machine, but I use it very rarely and now do everything on-line. I am surprised that you now long for "a more structured working routine", although some people do prefer to work this way. However, surely the important thing is to get tasks done & yes, you may have to do this alone. Personally, having worked from home for nearly 10 years, I love the fact that my horizons have expanded and I now don't only speak to the person next to me, but to colleagues all over the world and different time zones are no longer a hindrance. Emails at 9 p.m. can be difficult unless you let people know that you will answer ASAP (e.g. within 12 hours) and yes, you have to learn how to manage your time most effectively. However, filing at the UK IPO, EPO, WIPO etc. is so much quicker on-line outside the 'normal' working hours, you may find that you can begin to regain your love of "freedom" again. And think of all good that you are doing for the planet reducing the paper, ink and car fumes! You have to work at retaining contact with people, but doesn't that make the effort so much more worthwhile?