What's on my mind

Employee engagement in a Covid world

20th May 2022

The debate about working from home versus the office, whether part-time or full time, is an active one.

With Jacob Rees-Mogg leaving notes on Civil Servants’ desks saying: “Sorry to have missed you”, as part of wider effort to get Civil Servants back to their offices, it is evident the debate about working from home versus the office, whether part-time or full time, is an active one. 

It has been brought into sharp focus as a result of Covid, and it also reminded me I wrote an article for Money Marketing in 2017 on home working entitled: “Is working from home bad for business?” In that article, I set out five tests – what I referred to as “golden rules” to determine the need and relevance for doing so:

1: There should be a clear business case for working from home

2: The purpose/rationale should be clearly set out in writing

3: The person should be accessible via both email and phone throughout the day(s) in question unless otherwise agreed

4: Depending on the level of employee, it may be reasonable to ask to see outputs in the form of completed work/assignments

5: Unless it is necessary or desirable to write it into an employee’s contract as being permanent, it is something that should be capable of withdrawal at any time to suit the needs of the business.

Covid working from home

In the light of Covid along with changes in working practices, how many of these five rules are still relevant, and what else now needs to be taken account of?

I think that 1-4, remain appropriate; there needs to be a business rationale and there also needs to be processes and controls put into place. 

However, 5 is no longer so. We now have the firmly established practice of “hybrid working,” and a considerable number of employers now have changed their previous policies in the light of Covid.

Technology has also played its part; it has become much more of an “enabler” in the last five years; we only have to think of the use of Teams, Zoom and other similar technology to conduct many business meetings that would previously taken place, and the ongoing debate about whether more should be face to face to know that business practice as changes.

There is a balance to be struck, and the debate is a continuing one.

What is important to bear in mind, is that “one size does not fit all,” and that different types and size of financial services businesses will have varying needs and also varying levels of capacity to allow and make best use of remote working.

As many readers of my articles will already be aware, I now spend most of my time involved with helping the owners of financial planning firms plan for, and then execute their succession plans, be that family succession, management buy-out, employee ownership trusts or sale. 

The sale of firms tends to predominate for a variety of reasons, and alignment in business practices is a critical area of analysis to confirm there is compatibility between the seller and their acquirer.

If an acquirer operates a policy of “everyone in the office,” and the seller has a more flexible approach, then there will be an obvious “shock to the system” when the sale and subsequent integration takes place. 

The converse might be considered less of a challenge, but not all employees, be they advisers, paraplanners of administrators, will be comfortable with being expected to work from home part of the time, let alone all the time.

Due diligence on the part of both the seller as well as the buyer remain fundamentally important to improve the likelihood of a successful sale.

This article was originally published on Money Marketing

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