The New Norm

What interesting times we live in. A month ago Ireland entered a Lock-In/Lock down in an attempt to quell the spread of COVID19. Without fail every citizen has been impacted in some way or other. With this, it can be easy to go down the rabbit hole and discuss numerous hypothetical scenarios, predictions and other outcomes. However, this is something we will try to avoid. The last month and the next 3 weeks will have significant ramifications for the finance industry long-term.

Here we will look at a few different changes we have seen in the market, how these are impacting industry, and ultimately a potential glimpse into the future.

 The New World we live in

Here we are. There is no denying it any further. This is a new world we live in. Not to be confused with the “New World” Columbus set sail for in 1492, or the 2005 mediocre romantic drama starring Colin Farrell. This new world is built around some main themes; isolation, remote working, Zoom meetings, Skype meetings, baggy t-shirts and shorts. In the last month at Darwin Hawkins the most common question we have been asked has been – “when will it go back to normal?”. Sadly our background in finance does not put us in the best position to answer this – it has however allowed us to look at the finance industry and get a better understanding of some of the trends that are occurring and whether they could remain for the long-term.

This new world will see people who had never previously worked from home spend the best part of 7 weeks doing so. The novelty of this has worn off quickly. The initial week or two where people found themselves at loose ends or struggling to fill the day has ended. For companies and employees a-like this has been a wake up call. People are learning to get on with life in the new world. The area put aside for your office has become a sanctuary where work can be done. The 9-5 structure is now in place. People will miss the camaraderie in the workplace and that’s to be expected. On the flip side are there less distractions? Less coffee breaks? Easier to focus to get tasks done? People are adapting to this new way of life. More importantly companies are adapting. Yes, there is no doubt many industries are under ferocious strain, this is in line with the economy being under strain. As companies get to grip with remote working, they are looking to become as efficient and effective as possible during this time frame. This means their day to day business plans have been altered and they are now running based on the new world we live in.

Working from home

 There’s no escaping it anymore. The day when people in the finance industry said they couldn’t work from home are gone. Broadband is too good, I.T is too good, the infrastructure is too good. But where does this leave companies. It’s fair to say a good portion of them had never previously allowed employees to work from home. We carry out fire drills with great regularity, but rarely do we have a Work from Home drill or test. Now companies can really discover the benefits of working from home. Let’s focus on the positives here;

  • Productivity – People will want to work as efficiently as possible whilst at home, after all you don’t really want to spend a nice evening over a spreadsheet if you could have completed said task during the day.
  • Time Gained – the hour commutes each way are no longer an issue. Let’s say you use half that time for work. There’s an hour gained for free for you or for value-add work.
  • A More Focused Approach – it’s well-known certain companies or people like to have “meetings for the sake of meetings” – well not anymore. People are looking to get on with their work. They no longer need to take an hour plus out of their day having small talk before/after meetings where nothing is achieved. Time is precious when you’re working from home.
  • Overheads Altered  In theory this is applicable across the board. Where companies might have had expenditure deemed unnecessary they will be able to allocate these costs elsewhere.

The Staggered Work Week

The 4 points on the benefits of working from home lead perfectly into the next topic we are going to look at which is The Staggered Work Week. This is something that companies across different industries have been looking to do and could be an excellent option for the future. When the restrictions are lifted or eased it’s hard to imagine that the transition from working from home 5 days a week to being in the office will be easy. The Staggered Work Week is a viable solution to this.

What is a Staggered Work Week? Very simply it is a case of one in, one out. If John works Monday, Wednesday, Friday in the office he works Tuesday and Thursday from home. This is tailored to the company and the individual’s requirements. Advancements in productivity tracking technology also now means that employers no longer have to worry about employee reduced productivity while working from home.

The benefits of this are numerous;

  • Could you have a smaller office? Less people in at any one time. Less desks and space required.
  • Lower overheads – bills will be reduced across the board if less people are in at any one time.
  • Efficiency – the benefit of employees working efficiently at home coupled with the benefit of more purposeful meetings when in the office.
  • Adaptability – should something similar happen in the future where working remotely is required the challenge to adapt is not nearly as significant.
  • Happier employees – less commuting, less time wasted – just some of the benefits employees will see with the staggered work week.
  • Strain on systems reduced – at any time your I.T system won’t solely have all staff working remotely. This allows I.T staff to tackle issues with less strain on the remote access system.

A new focus or perspective

Over the last 4 weeks and next 3 weeks people’s perceptions of working life have and will change. Our lives have been turned upside down from sitting in offices where we sanitized our hands religiously to sitting in “new” offices in our comfortable clothes. Every experience good or bad is an opportunity to learn and this has been no different. Companies who previously didn’t like remote working might be converted to it. People who never thought they could get any work completed at home are seeing their efficiencies soar with less distractions and a more focused approached. High-speed internet has enabled this response to unprecedented upheaval. As is the nature of our work we speak with candidates and clients alike daily. There is no doubt perspectives are changing. Clients are looking to adapt their hiring approach. Where once a prospective hire had to be met several times in person, they now have Video Calls where the questions are most focused in allowing them to get a clear an understanding of the potential hire’s capabilities. Where candidates once insisted on only working on one side of Dublin they are now discussing remote working. Could they live in the country long-term and stagger their work weeks? Will companies look to hire staff who will solely work remotely? Could this shift even help solve the Dublin housing crisis?

The current upheaval has cast so many things into a new light. Are we going to see people getting coffees for one and hosting Zoom or Skype calls in the local café? Something that once seemed a bit introverted no longer seems that daft. In the finance industry people are adapting to this change. It hasn’t been easy but with time we are learning to get on with things and work more efficiently whilst working apart. At Darwin Hawkins our focus has always been on making things as easy as possible for both candidates and clients. In the past 4 weeks we have seen the goal posts shift a bit for both. This is no bad thing. Ultimately, companies are learning more about the skills they value and what they want in a hire. Candidates are getting a better opportunity to identify sustainable industries they want to work in where they can maximise their career potential. The new world is already here, and the sooner we embrace it the better!

As always, stay safe!

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