Anna Roughley

Head of Insight and Support

Having been a pre-Covid-19 “remote worker”, the decision to close the office, for me, was less of a change and I, perhaps naively, expected it to be “more of the same”. Traditionally I keep in touch with the team via telephone or by travelling into the office so I wanted to make sure wherever possible they weren’t feeling too isolated. This was when my first proper interaction with video conferencing happened. Introducing: connected working. 

I’ve always rejected this method of contact, “the telephone works just fine for me”, so I’m afraid I have been truly remote working. After my first video call, I remember feeling really positive, if not a little surprised at how connected I felt.  I wanted more.  

My new norm is interacting with the team using video, like swivelling my chair around in the office, without the swivel! And it’s the most natural thing to do now. I’ve not had the opportunity to engage with someone in the office about their plans that evening or in a personal way for a long time and I think I forgot how it feels to really connect when “remote working”. When I felt isolated pre coronavirus, I accepted it was an unintended consequence of the benefit of working from home. Lockdown has taught me that not physically being in the office does not mean I can’t be part of the team. For the first time in my remote working career, I feel connected, really connected. And it feels good. I have learned more about my team mates in the last 4 months than I have over the last 4 years, not because we didn’t try before but circumstances were different. And yes, some of this is because we are actively making the effort to speak more often, engaging in team activities so we don’t miss out on the camaraderie but mostly it’s because I see people, and we connect. It’s become personal.  

I know this is not the case for everyone. We are all navigating our way through the peaks and troughs coronavirus brings, and each person’s journey will look different. This must be the same for consumers.  As we adapt our working practices to maintain services so must we think about how we engage with customers. Mine and others views on home working really highlights that one size does not fit all, peoples views, feelings and needs change and we have to stay live to that, and not just rely on a one time interaction. I wonder whether, for some customers this would be a good way to engage. Seeing the sincerity on people’s faces as they try to help but also to encourage a more natural conversation that draws out key points and reduces the distraction of a system and writing notes. Of course, that’s still an important element of the interaction for onward management of the account but maybe it will help with organic conversations. I don’t doubt it’s not suitable for every call interaction, and not always required but perhaps for those who need to feel connected or to have those challenging conversations it’s something that could be considered.  

Like many organisations, we have had to consider our plans for this year and how we engage with our registered firms. We have taken the opportunity to provide many of our face to face training modules virtually, maintaining the “interactiveness” of the session and sharing best practice through case study work. This method of delivery has enabled us to reach more firms, because co-ordinating a webinar tends to be quicker than bringing people together from across the country and aligning diaries. I don’t doubt, when able, we will still deliver face to face sessions but when pressed, and in times of steep change, it’s amazing what can be achieved and how well we adapt to our new surroundings.  

As we continue through this period and beyond into the “new normal”, I expect we will continue to modify the way we work and challenge the norm to be better connected. Better for our teams, registered firms, stakeholders and consumers.