"A positive shift over the last year may be that firms are now more aware of staff wellbeing and company policies around flexible working."
This Friday marks National Work from Home Day, a day that began long before the advent of Covid-19 as a way to promote the benefits of flexible working practices. With many of us working from home for over a year now, it provides an opportune moment to reflect on how the advice profession has adapted and what will happen as restrictions continue to lift.
We uncovered that more than half (53%) of advisers we surveyed expect to work remotely - wholly or in part - in the long term. This represents a huge shift from before the pandemic when the majority of advisers were office based and will shake up the traditional way in which advisers and clients interact.
Most firms have turned to technology to ensure that people can work effectively when not in the office, with 65% of our customers surveyed in March saying they have seen better adoption of technology by employees over the last year. There have been some massive business gains as a result, with half (49%) of advisers saying the last year has given their firm time to implement process and business efficiencies, while more than a third (38%) agree technology has enabled them to service clients in different locations over the last year.
Clients have benefited too: one in three (27%) respondents believe communication with clients has improved and a third (34%) say clients now have a greater awareness of the value of advice.
However, it can be difficult to draw the line between work and personal time when you’re at home, especially when our usual leisure activities have been so constrained. At the start of the pandemic, a fifth (21%) of advisers rated managing employee welfare as the single largest challenge to the working day since the coronavirus outbreak and a similar proportion (22%) believe this is still the case today. At intelliflo, ‘walkie talkies’ have become popular among employees. Going for a walk when dialling in to some meetings where laptops aren’t required seems to work well to get fresh air and a change of scenery. There are numerous other new measures like this that businesses are taking to combat screen fatigue.
A positive shift over the last year may be that firms are now more aware of staff wellbeing and company policies around flexible working. At the start of the pandemic, 16% of our customers surveyed predicted that lockdown would make employee welfare more important for firms within 12 months, but a year on, half (52%) say staff wellbeing has actually become a higher priority for their business.
The last year has presented challenges for all of us, but the advice sector has quickly adapted to ensure business as usual. On the whole, working from home has been a success for firms over the last year, with better use of technology and the flexibility of working remotely delivering benefits for staff, businesses and clients. With this new way of working deeply embedded among advisers and their clients, I expect this to mark a permanent shift in the way that advisers operate in the future.