PA Consulting’s people and talent expert, Amy Finn, discusses how coronavirus might affect business travel policies and what asset managers must do to ensure the safety of their staff post-pandemic.
A lot can change in a year. After all, staying in all day and watching Netflix is now championed as a healthy lifestyle, while sitting on a park bench after a run has become a revolutionary act.
Lockdown policies have profoundly disrupted many of the old assumptions underpinning the world of work too. Many white-collar companies, including asset managers, have found that they can function fairly well with a workforce dispersed in kitchens and spare bedrooms across the globe.
This realisation means the business trip, once a mainstay of many fund professionals’ working lives, could soon seem as outdated as fax machines or a couple of martinis at lunchtime.
Amy says that “asset managers will be flexible, cautious and watchful as we come out of the pandemic and lockdown”.
She continues: “The decision now is to what extent each firm believes working from home and limiting travel is desirable in terms of their culture.
“The importance of personal relationships means asset managers will want to return to face-to-face contact with clients and colleagues.”
This is likely to be particularly pronounced in distribution and marketing roles, as well as portfolio management, where strong personal relationships are a key ingredient for commercial success and a Eurostar to Paris or a flight to Berlin was once a common component on many work calendars.
Amy says: “All that means business travel will resume but probably at lower levels as the practical benefits, time savings and flexibility of digital communications are now so clear.
“The challenge will be when we emerge from lockdown and some managers might see a first-mover advantage by getting out in the market before their competitors.”
This could lead to tensions forming between employees and employers if firms are pushing staff to travel when staff themselves are reluctant to go.
Amy adds that line managers will need to be mindful of any concerns employees may have about travelling abroad.
She continues: “Employees are expected to have high levels of flexibility about when and where they work, but managers will need to engage carefully with those who are anxious about travelling abroad.
“Given the remote working tools now available, it shouldn’t be necessary to enforce travel policies or compel staff to travel when they’re not comfortable.”