On the evening of March 11, 2020, Vivek, Wendy, and I found ourselves frantically exchanging texts about whether we should move our workforce to remote operations. After sharing some links on the latest data about this novel coronavirus, we decided there was no need to panic, but we should do a “pilot” and test our systems, just in case we needed to be remote for a few weeks. We announced our test for Friday, March 13, 2020, and we required everyone to stay home.
We haven’t returned to the office since then.
As we approach our one-year anniversary of remote operations, I reflect on everything that has happened to our Jayaram family. We’ve become experts at Zoom, WebEx, and Teams. We’ve closed multi-million dollar deals from our home offices with our kids sitting on the floor beside us. We’ve settled cases wearing hoodies and sneakers with the most adorable puppies and kitties looking on in curiosity. Some of us have workspaces in our living rooms, while others have dedicated home offices with fancy new desk chairs. We’ve sipped coffee on our balconies to feel the summer sun, and we’ve spent our lunch hours shoveling snow. We’ve enjoyed the extra time to cook, play games, sleep more, and spend time with those in our “bubble.” And sometimes we’ve used the extra time to work more, meet one more deadline, or check one more thing off our to-do list.
But the pandemic has taken its toll on us too. We have juggled impossible schedules alongside distance learning, remote fitness, telehealth, and virtual everything, all with fewer people in our support network to help. We have watched our parents and children experience devastating social isolation. Some of us are the only ones in our space, and we feel lonely. Some of us live where we never have a moment alone, and we feel stressed by the constant pull of others. It goes without saying that we all have felt suffocated by the four walls of our apartment, condo, or house. We have missed birthdays and holidays with our favorite people, watched milestone events be delayed, canceled, or marked without a celebration. We have worried about the mild fever or headache, we have nursed ourselves back to health from COVID, and, most devastatingly, just like many of you, we have lost friends and family to horrible virus.
It’s evident by now that we will not be back in our offices by March 13th. We’ve stopped predicting when we will be back, knowing that so much work needs to be done. And yet, we can see our way through this long winter. Numbers are dropping, new treatments are available, vaccine production is ramping up. Our favorite musicians are scheduling concerts. Sports teams are planning full seasons. Museums are open. Indoor dining is a possibility. Some kids are in school. Extended families are making plans to see each other, even if it looks a little different. Here in Chicago, we are waiting for the sweeps of daffodils that cover the earth even before the leaves bud. They are fresh and energizing, yet predictable and reliable, just like that old friend you haven’t seen in a year.
So, March 13th will be an anniversary that we at Jayaram will commemorate with complicated feelings. With pride at what we’ve accomplished. With sadness at what has happened to our world. With gratitude that we’ve walked this journey together as a team and with you as our friends. And with hope – so much hope – for sunnier days. Until then, we will keep negotiating, litigating, settling, advising, learning, and doing good and meaningful work remotely.
Happy anniversary, my friends. We will see you soon!
Heidi Echols is a partner at Jayaram. She is a
data privacy and healthcare lawyer in Chicago.
Shoot her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org