You started work in July 2020, what was the biggest challenge of starting a role during the pandemic?
As a forty something, 25 year veteran of our industry I think it was the proverbial ‘ripping up of the rule book’ and ‘unknowing’ everything you ‘knew’ – no standard induction, no sitting with colleagues learning new systems, no random office meetings, no after work drinks with the ‘newbie’ and in essence meeting and getting to know almost the entire company on Zoom and Teams. I think it took some 18 months for me to physically meet every member of the CW team. What would have seemed largely imponderable and frankly extraordinary before, had to become second nature. There wasn’t time to work out whether it was right, it wasn’t like there were any alternatives. I do believe it will be some time before we can look back and truly appreciate the changes that have occurred over the past few years – public transport has changed, commuting has changed, cities are different, London is different, high streets and shopping districts have changed, workplaces and offices are different, I am different – we all are. It is after all the ‘new normal’.
How did clients react to your moving firm at a time of so much uncertainty?
The response from clients was amazingly positive and I think they appreciated the continuity. I have been acting for some of them for many years but I never take for granted the fact that they continue to work with me. Its hugely appreciated. Once clients understood the motives for the move and the ‘why Cavendish Ware’ I do believe they could see what I saw.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from the last 2 years?
Professionally, it must be that we can adapt to anything if we have to and we shouldn’t fear change (this coming from someone who is set in their ways and doesn’t like change!). Covid-19 accelerated many trends that were already becoming evident in the modern workplace but the pace of adoption was unprecedented. Personally, it has to be ‘don’t’ sweat the small stuff’ and to remember what really is important in life. I think many of us, including me have has somewhat of a ‘reset’.
What is the biggest change to how you work brought on by the pandemic?
I was already working from home to some degree pre-pandemic so I would say it is the use of digital meeting platforms like Zoom and Teams. Whilst their use was a necessary evil during the various lockdowns and was frankly invaluable, particularly with clients you could not otherwise see in person I thought there would be a ‘backlash’ against digital meetings when Covid measures eased. I have not seen this with clients and they are still keen to have digital meetings in full or in part. The ease and efficiencies are obvious, so I guess ‘face to face’ advice has taken on a new and possibly wider meaning.
What changes do you think will continue into the future?
Covid 19 took a series of workplace trends (and introduced a few more) that had emerged and were gathering momentum, but because we were forced to, took the years of gentle, progressive change and adoption and condensed it into 24 months. Digital meeting platforms are efficient, inexpensive, offer significant functionality and in a world rightly focused on improving the planet certainly limit one’s carbon footprint. For me they are here to stay and certainly have a role to play. I don’t believe there will be a replacement of face-to-face advice in my working life, but beyond me, digital engagement in all its forms will become the norm for future generations and we are only at the tip of that particular iceberg.
I think the workplace has forever changed. The 9-5, train and tube, office and pub, coffee and sandwich routine of your working day has gone. If you want to compete for, and retain the best staff in what is already a challenging recruitment market you will have to offer some form of hybrid working environment. This being particularly relevant for the young. It has cost implications as inflation soars, has mental health benefits and allows you/them the flexibility to have the ‘best of both worlds’. With the right staff, the right culture and the right level of engagement the benefits for the employer are clear. I for one know that I work more than I used to, but (and it’s a big but) I work smarter, happier and in a way that brings positives to all facets of my life and profession.
Office or Home Working?
If you asked me this question twenty years ago the response would have been unquestionably ‘office’. That was my normal back then and indeed was the normal for everyone. But times have changed – I’ve changed. ‘Home’ certainly makes being a parent easier, offers you the flexibility to structure your day without lost commuting time and I can certainly get more done without distraction. But ‘office’ brings with it those conversations around the proverbial water cooler and there isn’t any replacement for that spontaneity and the relationships you can forge by actual physical interaction. Working constantly from home can also be lonely. I think a happy balance of both is optimal for me. That said, I am typing this on possibly the hottest day in British history and I am beyond glad that I am not on a train, that Dyson is set to high and the cold showers are on tap (and within feet).
One piece of advice for anyone changing role?
To understand, appreciate and accept the difference between ‘settling’ and the need to ‘compromise’. Moving firm is difficult when you are client facing so when you do, it is imperative that you ensure that it is the right move. I had been at my previous firm for a little short of a decade and during my ‘search and selection’ process many of the roles I was offered came with a host of trade-offs, most of which involved me ‘giving away’ more than I was ‘getting back’. I met Adrian in a rather unorthodox way, in a chance encounter – in my experience often the best outcomes emerge from such encounters. And so it was in this case. I didn’t settle, I found a group of people that I believed I could trust and work with.
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