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COVID-19 Practice Contingency Planning

COVID-19 Practice Contingency Planning

By Peter Docherty

COVID-19 Wellbeing 

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Professional Well-being
Recognising and responding to ‘Social Isolation’

As the impact of COVID-19 hits the legal profession and the wider community we need to consider new and emerging issues that may impact you and your teams. The issue of social isolation has been a challenge facing sole practitioners for decades, but as we embrace technology and reduce the traditional face to face interactions with our peers we need to be mindful of how this will impact well-being.

The 24/7 day a week bombardment of negative news stories on the news, radio, Facebook and our social channels in causing a heightened level of anxiety and fear. And unfortunately this has resulted in an increase in the mob mentality, where we have seen people react to other emotional, rather than rational behaviours and strip shelves of supermarkets bear, like sheep blindly following a flock.

These behaviours often start with confusion and fear of the unknown. And unfortunately, facts don’t change minds, individuals have their own personal biases which have been impacted by our upbringing, life experiences, network of peers and our choice of media. We only have took look at the way stories are presented by different media channels, as we know from years of research good news stories do not sell product or increase ratings, but bad news stories do. Research reaffirms humans tend to give greater weight to negative entities compared to positive one.

As professionals we need to acknowledge that we, this author included, can make irrational decisions and justify that they are made as a result of potential risks. There is a lot of difference between a professional and a member of a trade group. As professionals we owe our duties to our clients and the community by way of higher ethical standards, there is not only the duty to obey the law, but to ensure the efficient and proper administration of justice.

In the current climate of fear, we need to recognise our own biases, and those of others and take a rational approach to avoid the mob mentality and support our networks. Let’s examine what this means in a pandemic, when isolation may be a preferred behaviour of individuals, but when we are asked to maintain social distance or be forced into forced isolation. While recognising this may be good health policy, the penalties for failing to comply including in Victoria a fine of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for business, may be seen to escalate the fear factor, anxiety level and increase social isolation.

We need to protect our own personal well-being and manage the fear of isolation:

  • Technology as an enabler to stay connected. Many of us already use technology to stay connected with family and friends. Live streaming through technology like Whats App, Zoom and Facetime allows us to already share live experiences, through verbal and visual communication. Visual communication enables you to monitor body language and build trust, which is influenced by both your verbal and non-verbal alignment.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Timely communication is not only an important risk management strategy, at times of uncertainty it helps to manage anxiety and avoid feelings of social isolation. For teams working remotely it is critical to maintain a structure for regular communication and engagement. LIV has published guidance to assist you firm – like the Managers Guide to Flexible Working and tips on meetings to run.
  • Access Factual Information. Make sure your news comes from reliable sources like Vic Health or the WHO. Always seek source information, not sensational issued by news media, like empty shopping selves and fight over toilet rolls. Use your professional acumen to analyse information and share key information with your staff and networks.
  • Limit access to bad media coverage, whether tv, radio or social. We all know the radio programs with shock jocks or TV shows, often titled to promote current affairs that make their money on negative news. Avoid accessing this media or social media channels that cause you to feel anxious, or like me, angry.
  • Take control of your body. Recognise COVID-19 will intensify anxiety. Understand the impact it may take on health and mental well-being. Understand how it can be impacted in a time of crisis, avoid stress eating and drinking. Listen to the experts and maintain strict personal hygiene, exercise and make it fun, do it with friends virtually and take a class from you tube, you can even if you’re my age find that Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons workouts are all available. A good laugh helps relieve physical tension and stress, it’s medically proven that laugher is the best medicine.
  • Support others. During a time of crisis look after the well-being of others that may feel isolated. Put a routine in place to keep in touch. Use the R U OK resources.
  • Set a routine and daily goals. Daily routines help us to structure our days and preserve a sense of order and predictability for our own lives, even in times of societal uncertainly. You will benefit from a daily schedule which includes exercise, social connection, self-development, healthy eating, sufficient sleep and doing things you enjoy.
  • Be inspired if your isolated. Listen to TED Talks, listen to podcasts, supercharge your mind or begin planning that holiday you’ve always wanted to take. Get the next year of CPD out of the way. Work on that long list of things you were planning to do. It’s amazing how a sense of achievement can impact your well-being.

Access Support Services. LIV remains open for business via a virtual office and is here to support you.

  • COVID-19 Hub Access to information and resources to assist you to respond to COVID-19
  • Ethics and Practice Support Helpline – 03 9607 9378
  • HR Advice Line – 03 9607 9548
  • LIV Member Employee Assistance Program – 1300 687 327
  • Practice & Trust Accounting Consultancy Service – pmconsult@liv.asn.au

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