For the vast majority of us, business is far from usual at
the moment. So as law firms, banks and companies around the
world adjust to this new remote-working normal, the IFLR team -
along with a number of editorial advisors and contacts - share
their best tips, tricks and anecdotes for working from home
Lizzie Meager, managing editor, IFLR & Practice
I swear by the Pomodoro
technique: set a timer for 25 minutes of deep
concentration; you’ll be surprised by how quickly
it goes. When it beeps set another timer for five minutes of
mindless scrolling or staring out the window. Repeat until all
your tasks are finished. It works best for big chunks of work,
and the timer being visible is important - try keeping it in a
small window in the corner of your computer screen.
James Wilson, commercial projects editor, IFLR
It's difficult to maintain professionality when you're in
your house in your home clothes, where you'd normally be
totally informal. I find I have to catch myself from being too
informal. There are loads of benefits of working from home -
personally, productivity is one - but work isn't home, and vice
versa. You have to be very conscious of that difference.
It also takes practice to be well set up; something I learnt
the hard way a few years ago while working remotely in Cape
Town. I was staying with friends and researching Africa for the
IFLR1000 at the time. I
routed all my calls through Skype, which I had to keep topped
up. I also had to keep internet data topped up by going to a
supermarket to buy the data. I had a headset for calls. My
friends had a pet rabbit that would hop around everywhere,
including up onto the sofa where I worked.
One day, in the middle of a research call with a law firm,
the line suddenly went dead mid-sentence. I looked around,
checked the data, checked Skype, double-checked the internet,
then pulled up the loose cord of my headset. The rabbit had
eaten clean through it. I had to get up, run out the house, run
two blocks to the computer shop, buy a new headset and run back
- where I dialled back in to resume the call. And there were
droppings all over the sofa.
John Crabb, Americas editor, IFLR & Practice
As someone who works at home fairly regularly - and has
spent the majority of this year working from various AirBnBs
across South America - this situation hasn’t come
as too much of a shock to the system.
Trying to emulate the office scenario you’re
used to as closely as possible is important. I have a large
desk with a monitor and a mouse and keyboard that plug into a
USB extension. Plugging in every morning feels almost exactly
the same as it does in the office, which is psychologically
important for me. It's tempting to lie on the sofa with the TV
on, but your productivity will definitely suffer.
For me the biggest distraction is cleaning. To ensure a
productive day of work I make sure my house is spotless in the
evening, otherwise I could find myself organising things when I
should be working.
Karry Lai, Asia reporter, IFLR
Living in Hong Kong SAR, I’ve been working from
home since January. Training the mind to focus has been a big
thing for me. I have a daily hiking and yoga practice. I also
do an alternate nostril breathing technique (close one nostril,
breathe through the other side in 10 counts, close other
nostril, breathe out the other side in 10 counts). It helps me
concentrate, reduce stress and clear the nasal system.
Sui-Jim Ho, partner, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
and member of IFLR’s editorial board
One thing that I have already found very useful is video
calls. In times like this, it’s all the more
important to stay connected with each other. Seeing
someone’s face can help us maintain some human
connection when we are trying to observe social distancing.
Liam Sharkey, head of business development, IFLR &
My top tip would be to ignore the doorbell just before
calls. I live in a fairly busy area and once opened the door
one minute before a call to someone who was lost and her phone
had run out of battery. I invited her in to charge her phone,
but it was a bit distracting having a complete stranger sat in
the corner facing the wall, listening to me discussing private
equity lawyers in Florida for 20 minutes before she left
without saying a word.
Also, don’t buy bread. I’m getting
through five loaves a week at the moment.
Jimmie Franklin, EMEA reporter, IFLR
Having a routine has been helpful for me. Get up at the
usual time, go out for a walk or a run, and make sure you take
a lunch break and clearly structure your day. I’ve
also found it helps to turn off my phone. I know
it’s not possible for everyone, but
it’s a great help with concentration if
you’re not tempted to scroll through Twitter to
find the latest headlines about the pandemic.
Bradley Rice, senior associate, Ashurst
While I was on a conference call last week I also did an
English writing exercise and grammar and spelling test with my
nine-year-old who’s suddenly very interested in
what Daddy does for work - and no, unfortunately I
don’t have a home office or spare room that
doesn’t have junk in it or laundry drying that I
can use to lock myself away in. Then my six-year-old wanted to
colour in my birthday card he bought for me on Monday, then my
two-year-old wanted to listen to Baby Shark and Raa Raa, while
I sit and think about operational resilience.
These are strange, unprecedented times, but
let’s be open and honest with everyone. If you
want to do a conference call with me, great, but you might hear
or see the kids. I’d prefer calls
weren’t around 5-7pm as I’m taking
the opportunity to eat with the family and read with the kids.
Life goes on.
Roxanne Speight, head of subscriptions sales, IFLR
Taking the dog for a walk at 6.30am every day before the
kids wake up has been a lifesaver. I try to view it as my
commute - time to think about what I want to achieve and how
I’m going to manage the day - and of course to get
some fresh air.
Brie Lam, regulatory compliance consultant and member of
Practice Insight’s editorial board
Firstly, invest in a comfortable home office chair.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in it.
Next find a quiet space that will allow you to concentrate.
It’s particularly challenging during this crisis
as you may have spouses also working from home, perhaps with
children too. Find the quietest space possible. Barring that,
find a quality pair of earplugs - preferably the brightly
coloured ones so your family knows you’re not
Use a phone headset for better call quality. I have been
amazed at the number of colleagues who aren’t
using headsets at home. They’re inexpensive; pick
one up. And remember to always put your phone on mute when
you’re not the speaker on a conference call.
I’ve been on too many conference calls where
judicious use of the mute button would have kept fellow
conference call participants from hearing the dog barking or
the baby crying.
I’ve also learnt how important our appearance
still is. We certainly put time and effort into our in-person
appearance in a business setting; on-camera appearance is just
as important. When it comes to videoconferencing, make sure
your lighting, webcam placement and backdrop are professional
YouTube videos like this one can help you look your best on
Alice Tchernookova, reporter, Practice Insight
One thing I think is really important is defining your
working space clearly. It helps me get into work mode. This is
especially important if you're in isolation with your partner.
Make sure you know where each of you plan to work and respect
that. While it might feel nice at first to spend more time
together, it's also important to have your own space and do
your own thing.
Ruari Ewing, head of primary markets, International Capital
The main thing so far - apart from the need for a decent
internet connection, ideally a spare room, and the required
hardware - is learning to work as an entire group, both
internally and externally, remotely. This has meant more stress
on the existing functionality with certain people having to
catch up, as well as reliability, and adopting and learning how
to use new technology.
Discussion discipline is more important when
we’re communicating virtually, so I would
recommend extra emphasis on good initial curation and proposing
starting ideas and structured agendas, rather than open
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