I am based in North London and have been working from home during the lockdown with my husband, who is also working from home. I am lucky to have several green spaces on my doorstep and with that I have had the benefit of watching the seasons change in what seems like slow motion. I expect many people have noticed on their daily exercise route cold, dormant parks and woodland being transformed into lively, green sanctuaries with a calming soundtrack of bird song. A transformation has also occurred with the local community now using their green spaces more and getting out and about in their local area on foot.
I have been really impressed with how my firm has adapted to remote working. I had always thought it was possible, but law firms are subject to a fair amount of procedure. The lockdown has meant that pretty much every part of the firm is now working remotely. This will benefit the firm in the long run by being able to offer agile working to teams that previously did not have that ability.
In these uncertain times, I am assisting clients with ongoing development projects and transactions, including making adjustments due to the crisis. Additionally, I have been involved with advising clients on the stream of hastily drafted legislation and guidance from the government on the COVID-19 crisis. The speed at which the legislation and guidance has been put together inevitably means that there are gaps and unforeseen consequences which the real estate industry is now trying to grapple with. Me and my colleagues are keeping a close eye on developments in this new body of law, particularly:
- The relaxation of some lockdown measures and the interplay with landlord’s and tenant’s legal obligations in returning to premises;
- further legislation to address issues being experienced by businesses during lockdown, such as protection for tenants against landlord’s enforcement action; and
- potential extensions of deadlines set out in the Coronavirus Act 2020 legislation in view of the June quarter date.
In the short to medium term, it is likely there will be a new normal of social distancing within workplaces and the introduction of measures to enable staff to return to the office, but possibly with still large proportions of the workforce working remotely (where possible). This will encourage:
- further investment in technology, innovation and good communication to maintain cohesion in businesses,
- creativity in using virtual meetings and events to keep connected within the industry (something I know the CPA NextGen committee is focused on being involved with).
In the longer term, it will be important for businesses to ensure they take forward and build upon the positive lessons they have learnt from this period. Additionally, businesses should not forget other agendas, such as adopting better environmental practices and putting a strategy together for mitigating climate change risk.