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Clifford Chance

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Working towards a sustainable future

Remote working tips from counsel Alhassane Barry

With Clifford Chance offices across the globe working remotely, our colleagues have been sharing their remote working setups, what they're doing to maintain their mental heath and wellbeing, and how they've been staying in touch with colleagues.

Here we speak to Alhassane Barry, counsel in our Dubai office.

What's the most interesting thing about your remote working set up?

In terms of IT and HR, our leadership and HR and IT teams in the Middle East have done an outstanding job in ensuring that we have all of the tools needed to deliver the same outstanding quality of work from home (and I'm sure this is also the case across our other offices). I was also particularly impressed by how smooth the transition was in such a short space of time.

On a personal level, there are few interesting things: the significantly reduced commute time to work (it takes me approximately 15 seconds to get into my study); the very relax dress code (I often wear shorts and a t-shirt); and being barefoot all day long. I do, however, always keep a 'Zoom shirt' on the back of my chair in case I need to do a visio-conference.

In the UAE, we resumed a physical presence in office about two weeks ago, on a weekly, rotation basis. So I am half in and half out, and it is great to reconnect with the team physically. The remote working experience has made me realise how much I need face-to-face contact with my colleagues and clients for a good balance in my professional life. I missed the impromptu chats in the corridors or in the cafeteria or the totally unplanned after-work drinks. The DIFC business district has also reopened, but it still looks a bit like a ghost town, although it is gradually filing up.

What are your remote working 'must haves'?

Tea and fruit (always handy)… and quiet (which is not given when you have got young children around!). 

What have you been doing to maintain your health and wellbeing while working remotely?

I am fortunate to be quite busy, despite the Covid-19 climate. But I try to replicate my previous routine to the greatest extent possible. For example, by waking up and starting work at the same time as before and by calling off the day earlier than before in the evening. I have found it to be very important to ensure a clear divide between time spent in my home office and time spent with my family (but I often cheat by checking my work emails even if I am not in my home office). As I saved time on my commutes to work, I exercise a lot more often. I fell in love with cycling (in studio for the moment, as it is still pretty hot in Dubai) and it is great cardio.

How have you and your team(s) been connecting while working remotely?

Imagination has no boundaries in this sphere! To stay connected with colleagues, we have various virtual social gatherings. This includes everything from baking contests to quizzes to Yoga (to Iftars during the holy month of Ramadan). Under the impulse of my colleague, Marlou Valentim, we organised a 'virtual mission', which is an online race where the goal is to see as many sights as possible in Europe, and to 'walk' as far as you can. It was a blast! All these initiatives were a real reflection of our team mantra that we're all in this together and will emerge from it together as one team.

What are your three top tips for others working remotely?

One, enjoying every bit of extra time that this situation provides you to do other things of interest that you might not have had the time to do before. Two, remembering that regardless of where you are living in the world, we're all in this together and it's important to stay positive. Three, resisting the easy trap of being cut out from your colleagues around the network and your clients because you see less of them physically. In this respect, I apply the '2x2 Rule' ,which means that every two days, I'll call two colleagues (in the Middle East and outside of the region) and two clients to check on how they're doing on a personal level.