I’m back and I can’t think of a more lawyerly thing to do than to write a post about why I haven’t been writing!
Well, the honest truth is that life as a sole proprietor caught up with me. Since March, work has been rather hectic and I was really trying to get a grasp of my new life as a sole proprietor/law firm owner. I am grateful to have been kept busy throughout despite the “full lockdown” which started on 1st June 2021.
Being busy aside, admittedly the Covid-19 situation in this country has affected me in many ways.
I have somehow succeeded in working mostly from home although I now have a physical office space. Working from home for an extended period has taken its toll on me. A lot of talk about pandemic burnout, burnout from prolonged working from home arrangements, and productivity have gone around. To me, the most contentious ones often seem to come from more senior lawyers i.e. employers who demand more productivity from their employees throughout this period. LinkedIn quickly became a far more toxic space than Twitter for me! It seemed like every other day, there will be some content on LinkedIn calling out or questioning the lack of productivity from employees due to work-from-home arrangements.
I personally do not do well with lockdowns. I came out of the 1st lockdown last year (as we call it the Movement Control Order (MCO) 1.0 in Malaysia) in the most dramatic fashion. I did 3 things that day: met the managing partner to tender my resignation, had my first therapy session and took a phone interview for an in-house position in Singapore. Naturally, when the government announced another “full lockdown” which started on 1st June this year, I was nervous. I was worried that I’d have another meltdown and God knows what big life decisions I might make again! Living not too far from a designated Covid hospital certainly does not help either. Since 1st June, ambulance sirens have since become my daily companion. It is hard to maintain continuous high levels of productivity in these circumstances. However, I suspect that we’re far more productive than what most of us (or some of our employers think). We often don’t realise that we are probably working a lot more and far longer hours, with no boundaries between work and personal life, during lockdown. I am pretty sure most of us can relate to the daily routine of getting out of bed, turning on our laptops/computers, eating all our meals that day in front of the same laptop/computer until we have completely lost track of time. How do we not suffer from burnout if this is daily life for most of us and most worryingly, with no real end in sight?!
So, I tend to think that the alleged “lack of productivity” or as some employers put it, the alleged “laziness” is merely a perception arising from the assumption that since we have no other place to be in lockdown, we should all be doing more and that there is a lot more that we can do!
Throughout this period, I have had a lot of guilt for not doing enough or more. Of course, I had big plans and ambitions for my new little firm at the start of this year. I had great plans for this space, my blog on my law firm website, and a book that I am contractually bound to write! I have spent a great deal of the 1st half of this year feeling guilty that I could never seem to find the motivation to do everything as planned. So much so, I started reading a book on ADHD and was slowly convinced that I have undiagnosed ADHD that’s preventing me from staying focused and keeping to my daily plans or to-do lists. It’s like going down a rabbit hole of seeking solutions for my perceived lack of productivity and motivation.
It is then that I realised that I should probably cut myself some slack. This is more of a time to re-prioritise and accept that this year is probably going to be another year of survival for most of us. Survival can mean very different things to different people, as news of how some barely have food on the table due to this extended lockdown become a recent daily fixture. For some of us, it is about remaining sane. And, this is where I hope employers realise that lockdowns are really harder on some of us. I also don’t deny that it is equally hard on many employers/business owners. Being a law firm owner comes with its own set of worries and having even 1 person on your payroll adds to this stress in such uncertain times.
What we can all benefit from is a little bit of compassion and empathy towards each other. This shouldn’t be an employer vs employee situation. This should be a time to reflect on how we can support each other and help each other stay alive and sane during this period of time. And, the answer is NOT to micro-manage your employees and have multiple Zoom meetings with them throughout the day. Some may think it is their way of checking in on each other but as many of us know, a lot of times these multiple meetings a day with the boss take a toll on our mental health. Again, I do not deny that employers have their own anxieties. But hopefully, they’ll understand that work-from-home arrangements are not a free pass to disrespect and overstep each other’s boundaries.
On this note, though I have struggled with being motivated and keeping up with my plans for 2021, I must say that being on my own has been better for my mental health. The answer to those early snide questions/remarks about how I could write my own website content, maintain 2 blogs, social media accounts, create social media content, and have paying clients at the same time is simply this: I can do it all because to a very large extent, I own my time and have full autonomy over how I run my practice. (Ok, fine. Truthfully, when you’re trying to keep costs low and only have a small start-up capital, you will find the time and motivation!)
I have digressed much from the title of this post and I should end this post here. While many of us continue to debate whether law firms/lawyers are an essential service during the lockdown, I really hope that we can all be kinder to ourselves and realise this is probably not the year to fulfill grand ambitions and it is ok. We’re not really lagging behind our peers because if people were honest enough, they’re more likely than not to be in the same boat as us.
Stay afloat, peeps.