Thursday, 14 May 2020

Articling during COVID-19


When I started my articles, I never thought we would be working during a global pandemic, but here we are.

As of March 2020, millions of Canadians have left their offices for their apartment, condo or house as we all practice social distancing and work together to fight against the spread of COVID-19.

"For many of us, working from the comfort of our own homes sounded appealing, but for some, this came with new challenges (as it has for me)."


My partner and I chose an apartment in the downtown core of Ottawa so we could be within walking distance to our offices. We specifically chose proximity to our workplaces over a larger living space; a decision I now regret, having been at home 24/7 for nearly 8 weeks. But, I digress.

Here are some tips that helped me adapt to working from home:

Keep a regular routine.

The transition to working from home necessarily means a disruption in our regular routines. But it is important that we establish a regular routine as quickly as possible and stick to it. I am using the app Fabulous: Self Care, which has helped me build the perfect routine, ensuring I stay productive. There are many other apps out there like this one.

Stay connected.

One of the many things that makes McCague Borlack great is its people. When working from home, you lose out on keeping up with your coworkers not only in a social capacity (like water-cooler chats) but also when it comes to work. I find that emailing a lawyer to schedule a telephone call is a helpful way to stay connected and create a platform where you can discuss any questions or problems you have come across while working on your files. Our office also regularly schedules social Zoom calls where we play games or just talk for a while. These are just some of the ways that we can help stay connected to the rest of the team, both socially and professionally.

Set up your home office.

As you can imagine, I did not have a home office before COVID-19. Our space only allows for one  small desk in our living room, which was used by my partner who is a software developer. However, we both quickly realized that we do not need a “typical” office space to be productive at home. Instead, we need a consistent and comfortable space. This may be sitting at the same spot at your dining table by a window or at your kitchen island.

Coordinate with others who share your space.

Both my partner and I are now working from home and sharing the same spaces (our apartment is only two rooms). With this comes some challenges, i.e. both being on a call at the same time and not being able to hear our colleagues. To avoid this problem, each morning my partner and I briefly discuss our schedules for the day so we can coordinate around each other’s calls and meetings in advance. The last thing that you want is for your partner, child or pet to find themselves on record during your virtual examination for discovery.

Keep busy.

Working from home does not mean that all of the rules are out the window. During these unprecedented times, your employer will be very appreciative if they know they can still rely on you to get the job done. Also, do not forget that articling is all about learning. The learning should not stop because your work location has changed.

Stay in tune with yourself.

I know I just said that we need to keep working hard, but we should also recognize that times are different. Social distancing from your colleagues, friends and family, only going out in public when it is absolutely necessary, and the blurring of the boundaries between work life and home life can all take a toll on our mental health. For some, acknowledging that times are different is the first step to becoming healthier people. I found that partaking in hobbies (baking and playing piano), exercising daily, and staying connected with friends and family online are all ways to cope with feeling trapped and being surrounded by so much uncertainty. If we take the time to check in with ourselves and listen to our needs, we will be happier with and more productive in everything we do.

Stay on top of the ongoing changes in the profession.

Some of them may be here to stay after we return to work and the courts resume their regular operations. The Notices to the Profession are helpful in this regard but there are also plenty of free webinars you can sign up for.

I chose this profession because every day is different from the last. With constant changes in the law and such a steep learning curve, lawyers and licensing candidates learn to adapt and think quickly on their feet. Overcoming COVID-19 is no exception. We got this.

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