It's amazing what a difference a metre can make


Wealth Management HR Directors tell us what the future of work might look like!

On the 16 June, Owen James held a virtual meeting for a group of wealth management and private banking HR heads. They have found that the impact of Covid-19 has pushed HR to being more at the heart of transformation and culture change within their organisations. They certainly feel more valued. Although it appears that the managing of disruption is very different from how they had planned it.

Financial services is perhaps one of the more fortunate sectors in that the vast majority of businesses have managed to continue without much interruption. Working from home appears to have been a success. To such an extent that a lot of firms are not considering rushing back to the office any time soon. Some are even looking at next year.

Even the anti-agile working directors appear to have come on board with the concept of WFH.

Some of the concerns are practical. We learned that to introduce 2 metre social distancing within an office environment limits capacity to between 25% and 30% of the norm. If the 2-metre rule were reduced to 1½ metres, it would make little difference. However, social distancing of 1 metre would mean being able to accommodate 75% - 80%.

However, it does not work for everyone. Employees who may be flat sharing, living in a small space, having trouble with WiFi or having to work on their bed (note use of "on" and not "from") will be the first to head back. The biggest stumbling block, though, does appear to be public transport. It would appear that the metropolitan offices will be the last to return.

So, does this mean fewer big City offices? Well perhaps no – same space but a more agreeable and welcoming environment – well that was one encouraging comment. Should we expect more bean bags?

As for productivity, on the whole that is also a positive message. “Sky high” was another encouraging phrase! This was attributed to the better work life balance. However, it isn’t universally the case. Employees used to working within call centres are not always as comfortable away from the buzz.

So, what does the future look like? In summary, more flexi working, fewer in-person meetings, more remote working and recruiting from a wider net. Sounds like a plan. Oh and don’t forget more fun when we bother to go to the office.

This pandemic has caused an existential crisis with people questioning who they really are? What is my role? Is it about being a family member or providing for my family?

So, on that profound note, maybe this is a good time to reflect on our own individual sense of identity and the purpose of our organisation.

Working with Farrer & Co and Alchemy Worldwide, Owen James have been organising these quarterly breakfast briefings for HRDs for several years now. Along with everything else these have now gone virtual but hopefully not forever. We miss the breakfast!