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CooperBurnett Solicitors Partner Victoria Sampson from our Corporate and Commercial team discusses the 'new normal' after lockdown.

As we ease out of lockdown, nobody is talking about life getting back to ‘normal’, as it’s generally acknowledged that we won’t see ‘normal’ for a long while yet, perhaps ever… Personally, I think we’ve all learnt a lot from lockdown and there are some aspects of this new ‘life’ which I’ll be keen to hang onto. And I didn’t imagine I’d be saying that a few months ago…

Looking back, I am very proud at how well our team here at CooperBurnett has adapted to this new and different world. We’ve been in our physical building in Tunbridge Wells for nearly 40 years and it’s a space we enjoy working in and are proud to invite clients into. To think that the majority of us wouldn’t step foot into the office for weeks would have been hard to imagine. How could we work effectively and efficiently from our homes? It turns out that we can.

In our line of business, we have had to continue ‘meeting’ clients, as there have been documents which have needed signing and papers to be handed-over. Our team has had to sign documents over garden gates and had meetings in their own front gardens.

We have really missed actually seeing our clients and our contacts though. While Zoom and video calling has really come into its own, and we’ve had team meetings, client briefings and networking online, it isn’t the same as that face to face contact. While online meetings might well continue, I expect that, when we can meet up again, we will value that opportunity even more.

Up until now, our business life has been a fairly formal one – we are lawyers after all. The thought that we might one day hold meetings with some of our long-standing clients while at home, with pets and children wandering past the screen, would have been crazy!

I have discovered things about my colleagues that I didn’t know before and I’ve had conversations with my clients about myriad subjects from home schooling to the challenge of finding where to source a take-out cappuccino! It has somehow made us all a little more human. And that is not a bad thing at all.

At CooperBurnett, we have always had an open approach to flexible working, particularly around family commitments, but I think this situation has taught us all that we really can ‘make things work’. One thing I haven’t noticed at all is a drop in productivity from our team. We are more understanding if a telephone isn’t picked up straightaway and we’ve all come to expect messages and emails ‘out of hours’.

Communication during this time has been key. While we’ve mostly been based from home, our teams have still been working together. In work and outside, we’ve discovered different ways to keep in touch. I know that I’ve received more letters in the post recently. Local companies who can offer home delivery have been very busy, and I’ve taken advantage of local florists and eateries for deliveries and pick-ups.

In general, we are all supporting our local traders more and those who have served us when supermarkets have had endless queues and been a stressful challenge. The majority of us have cooked more and appreciated how easy life was previously, when we have struggled to buy essentials.

Being at home, we have all become more aware of those people who make a difference to our lives every day – from the people who deliver our post to the team who clear our bins. Then, each Thursday evening, we’ve met our neighbours on the pavement to clap for the NHS and keyworkers.

While most of us felt at the beginning of lockdown that it would be a situation which would restrict our ‘freedom’, it has actually given us the opportunity to value the ‘new’ freedom emanating from enforced lockdown. While work might be just as demanding, we are not physically having to rush between meetings, jump on trains to London, battle with the M25 or take our children to two different after school clubs at the same time.

We are all noticing what’s around us a little more. Most of us have been out walking and witnessing the changing face of nature. Living in Tonbridge, I have grown to appreciate even more the river and the green spaces in and about the centre of town. We’re also getting used to saying ‘hello’ to people whilst out and about, rather than thinking it’s a bit odd…

In our part of the South East, we have avoided Covid-19 to a large extent and, for that, we feel very fortunate – although we know many people have lost loved ones. This situation has reminded us of how debilitating loneliness can be and I imagine the impact of lockdown on mental health will be far reaching and remain with our community long after lockdown is lifted. For this reason, it remains important to check on neighbours, friends and family – with a phone call, a homemade treat or a chat over the fence.

We hope you and your loved ones keep safe and remain well as summer 2020 progresses.

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June 23, 2020
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