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Family-like culture the backbone of Tompkins Wake’s Covid-19 response

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The day New Zealand went into lockdown was the day junior solicitor Josh Nyika had been scheduled to spend working at home. It was to have been his “test day” to ensure his technology worked at home should the Tompkins Wake team be sent into lockdown. Instead he spent the day setting up his desktop on his kitchen table.

The challenges that brought mirror those experienced by people around New Zealand, who found themselves creating makeshift home offices as Kiwis were forced into isolation to combat Covid-19.
Josh and his wife isolated with their one-year-old son.

“We’ve got a two-bedroom house… there wasn’t any separation and my son kept jumping on my lap trying to watch videos online. My boss might not be too impressed with the search history…. Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” he laughs.

“For several weeks it became our new normal – juggling work commitments in our bubbles, with family, kids and pets.”

While Josh and his colleagues got to grips with working from home, there was one consideration they didn’t have to worry about: their jobs.

Kirsty Dibley

“Management made everyone feel supported and able to focus on work rather than worrying about their jobs or the firm,” said professional support advisor Catherine Bryant.

That sentiment was echoed by her colleagues.

“I’m so proud of the way this has all been handled and the confidence the firm had in us to get through this,” solicitor Kirsty Dibley said.

“I felt reassured the firm was coping well and a lot of that came from [Chief Executive] Jon Calder addressing everyone every Friday over MS Teams. He was really transparent in terms of how we were doing. He told us ‘If you’re quiet with work, don’t worry about that’.”

The firm was resolute that it wouldn’t take the wage subsidy.

“I’m incredibly proud of the fact that [our management and governance team]backed themselves not to need the wage subsidy,” Josh said.

Instead, partners chose to reduce drawings and absorb the impact, preserving the team and preparing the firm for recovery. There have been no redundancies, no wage cuts. Staff were given an Easter bonus and an internet allowance.

Measures were put in place to maintain the strong, collegial culture the firm has worked hard to build. There was daily communication between teams, virtual morning teas, and CEO updates each week.

The unwavering support was symptomatic of the firm’s commitment to its culture. This is something the firm’s partners have always valued above all else and that Jon has championed since he took up his post as Chief Executive in 2016.

“Our structure with our partnership board and our senior leadership team comprising managers and partners, has proven highly effective in managing the challenge of Covid-19,” said Jon.

“But underpinning that has been our culture, which puts our people front and centre. Alongside other values, we’re incredibly focused on providing our people with a great working environment and the support they need to succeed not only in their roles, but to thrive professionally and personally.”

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