COO view: Understanding business continuity post-pandemic
Mike Tumilty, Global Chief Operating Officer, abrdn, offers his thoughts on what an organisation’s office environment looks like today compared to pre-pandemic.
Maya Sibul POSTED ON 10/12/2022 1:01:36 PM
As an increasing number of employees return to on-site work after the Covid-19 pandemic, challenges arise alongside opportunities for growth. New habits in hybrid working environments are matters of interest and concern for many in the fund industry.
Clear Path Analysis’s October 2022 report, The Post-Pandemic Office: Operations, Technology, Outsourcing & Managed Services in the Investment Management Industry, covers these issues with industry leaders at companies like abrdn, SS&C | Advent, Mackay Shields LLC, and MetLife Investment Management.
The post-pandemic workplace is still learning to adapt to a new normal after two years of work-from-home, an area Mike Tumilty, abrdn’s Global Chief Operating Officer, said was crucial to profitability and success moving forward. He said that as more employees work from home, time spent in the office must be reconfigured to fit changing needs.
“It was about effectively redefining the role of the office to be a place where people come to collaborate, coach, communicate and continue.”
“We put a lot of thought into redefining office organisation, especially earlyish in the pandemic when there were a number of false starts in terms of getting people in and people working from home.” The company relied on what Tumilty called “the four C’s:” collaborate, coach, communicate, and continue. “It was about effectively redefining the role of the office to be a place where people come to collaborate, coach, communicate and continue. We had to identify the roles that required people to be in the office 100% of the time, which relates to this idea of ‘continue’,” he said.
A 2021 PwC Remote Work Survey reported a shift in positive attitudes toward remote work. They found that 83% of employers said that remote work was successful for their company in early 2021, compared to 73% in mid-2020.
“People who were dealing with customers on the phone found the working environment in the office to be much better than working remotely.”
A key element contributing to the success of remote work, said Tumilty, is the identification of office-necessary roles versus those that can be successfully accomplished at home. “People who were dealing with customers on the phone found the working environment in the office to be much better than working remotely.” These individuals, he said, “can work remotely, in a contingency, but do continue in the office.”
Adaptation is key
In a 2022 PwC survey on Global Workforce Hopes and Fears, however, more than two-thirds of the remote full-time workers who responded said they are concerned about missing out on in-office development opportunities. These employees, likely on the younger side, looked for hands-on approaches to career development and performance management. Ultimately, a hybrid home/office working scenario was most prevalent among respondents, with 62% saying they prefer a mix of in-person and remote work.
“The laptop I use at home is the one I bring into the office. I plug it into the monitor and everything works.”
Tumilty’s thinking on office design and engagement is compatible with these statistics. He explained that abrdn restructured their offices to be prime collaboration spaces. “We closed one office for the better part of two years during the pandemic,” he said. The company then did renovation work to transform the old space into a new, communal environment. Intelligent monitors were installed, Tumilty said, and laptop technology was improved and fully rolled out. “Now the laptop I use at home is the one I bring into the office. I plug it into the monitor and everything works.”
New work-from-office conditions
Tumilty also said that abrdn has done its best to address pandemic-induced reticence and inertia, adapting to a “different way of working” post-pandemic and a “different way of life.” It was critical, he continued, that “we tried to make our office spaces ideal for collaboration, and seamless from a tech perspective.” As the amount of people coming back into the office has started to ramp up – especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – he said that it is great to see employees set up in-office in precisely the same ways they are at home. This confluence is key to maintaining high productivity levels.
It is especially important, Tumilty said, to ensure that Zoom and Teams work as seamlessly in the office as they do remotely. A January 2022 Pew Research Centre survey found that 66% of respondents reported that they always used online conference services, with people who were new to work-from-home more likely to use videoconferencing tools (77%) than those who were not (48%).
“The office is a community – it’s not just about tasks, activities, and getting your work done.”
The goal, Tumilty said, is not to only accomplish all tasks and responsibilities from home, but also to coach fellow colleagues. This interpersonal responsibility is more difficult on Zoom than it is in person. When talking about people coming into the office, companies should encourage all types of employees – regardless of seniority – to come in. “Everyone can share and learn from their experiences,” he said. “The office is a community – it’s not just about tasks, activities, and getting your work done.”
Ideally, he concluded, mentorship should be a major focus, increasing community engagement and employee satisfaction.
To read the interview in full, and see more from the report, please click here.
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