I know I’ve talked about virtual meetings and remote working before but as it seems it’s here to stay, I thought I’d delve deeper. I believe that remote working has so many advantages, as I’ve mentioned in other posts. One of the biggest one for me, is that I can see clients all over the UK without the need to travel, (which takes so much time out of a working day). It also means I can employ people from up and down the country – overseas too and immediately widens the talent pool. It opens up a plethora of opportunities for everyone!
Since last March, my client list has grown. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to say that we have had our best financial year ever, despite the pandemic. I suppose it’s a silver lining but it’s not by chance. We’ve offered remote working since 2012 and with a few tweaks and improvements over the past 12 months, it’s made a huge impact on my business. I’ve got new clients who would never normally have come to me because of the distance normally involved. It’s quite remarkable and remote working has the added bonus of being able to meet new people, which I love.
Of course, not every business is like mine and the financial industry has been impacted by the pandemic. The FCA has issued compulsory surveys as they’re concerned about insolvency for IFA firms. In fact, their latest report states that 4000 IFA firms are due for insolvency because they’re not making money. A lot of that is because they weren’t prepared for what’s happened over the past year (not many businesses were). As my business was (by luck) prepared I’ve been getting calls from other IFA firms asking for guidance on how to offer remote advice. The truth is they’ve never done remote working before and I’m always happy to help but it’s not a quick fix. Like anything, getting it right is a journey and one that we’ve been on for 9 years!
So What are All of the Advantages?
If you’re reading this and you’re powering through remote working with virtual meetings, here’s an interesting fact. I’ve just read an amazing compilation of reports that all agree that post-pandemic at least 25% of workers will continue to work at home at least 3 days a week. That will doubtless relate to you too, no matter what you do (unless you’re based in a shop or you work directly with the general public of course). If you’re reticent and you’re secretly praying that working life goes back to how it was before, let me remind you of the advantages and gently say that if you are longing to go back to your office and meet clients, you’re possibly part of a dying breed!
- It’s economy driven. I can now conduct 4 meetings a day whereas in the past it used to be just two.
- I can get more done and therefore charge less so my business is more competitive than ever before. If you’re an IFA and you aren’t going to embrace remote working for the long-term, no doubt you’ll also be more expensive too! Food for thought right?
- I can contact colleagues almost whenever I want to and bounce around ideas, it helps with collaboration too because with the outstanding platforms and programmes available online, several people can have access to a project at the same time.
- It’s flexible, the 9 to 5 has long gone. People work when they want to, fit their schedule around their families and other commitments which means there’s better work/life balance.
- Life isn’t as formal as it used to be – how many times have you seen a remote meeting with children wandering in? Or a cat wandering across a desk? It’s more “human”, you get a little insight into people’s home lives!
If you’re still shaking your head thinking you won’t embrace remote working in the future. Here’s an example of why you need to re-think. Post. What do you mean (no doubt you’re asking)? I’m talking letters. In terms of financial firms, it’s essential to keep a daily record for the past four years but nowadays, all private companies communicate digitally. The only institutions sending post are government departments like HMRC and OPG and they’re not profit-driven. Remember the time when companies used to give you a discount if you’d agree to receive your bills by email? Now they expect you to receive bills digitally! If you refuse, they’re likely to charge you if you opt to receive them by post! Stay with me…
There’s also barely any photocopying because of scanning and email. I’m going to go back a few years to the 1970’s when offices had big post departments and even photocopying rooms. It was laborious and slow but now, those departments are pretty much non-existent. There are quicker ways of doing things and the point is as soon as someone discovers a quicker way of doing things, everyone has to do it – or they won’t survive. Remote working is one of those quicker ways of doing things.
What about money? Did you know that actual cash only accounted for 20% of transactions over the last 12 months? Digital transactions are quicker and more convenient using contactless or Apply pay. Some retail outlets no longer accept cash at all, and people don’t like to handle it because of the pandemic. Cash is expected to decline to less than 10% of transactions over the next 5 to 10 years. New habits are forming.
Remote Working is More Cost-Efficient
I’ve done my sums. The declining number of clients and customers not online makes them unprofitable to service. We haven’t accepted any new clients who aren’t online for well over 5 years. We can no longer economically afford to help them. A client got in touch recently and said she didn’t like being “online”. I asked her how much she was prepared to pay to find someone who could deal with her offline? It’s no longer viable for me to keep clients who don’t want to be online.
There’s Always a Downside
Look, there will always be disadvantages. While video conferencing is here to stay, it’s going to have repercussions for many. Lots of hospitality jobs have gone during the pandemic, and they’re not coming back. With less need for business travel, there’s less need for overnight business stays and business meals out in restaurants. As an example, I have been a member of the Nucleus PDG for over 3 years and we travel to Edinburgh stop overnight have a meal at an Edinburgh restaurant and then meet for a 4-hour meeting. The whole process takes about 36 hours. Since March 2020 we have been meeting virtually and we have decided that we will meet by video conferencing even after the pandemic. Even if we were to meet for 2 meetings instead of 4 that is still a 50% reduction in hotel and restaurant bookings and that is being repeated amongst all business throughout the UK and beyond.
Of course, retail’s taken a massive hit. I haven’t been inside a shop since last March and I have got so used to doing everything online. While I might not be “typical”, I never intend to go inside a shop again. Yes, shopping is still a pastime and people meet and spend the day in town shopping with friends. With online shopping, you miss out on feeling things and the enjoyment of the shopping experience, but I do wonder how the high street will be post-pandemic because the online offering is so diverse and there’s something fun about receiving a parcel! Along the same subject, one thing I haven’t needed to buy is work attire, I don’t need shirts and ties anymore too, we’re all enjoying the comfort of leisurewear, another nod to informal working environments!
While you don’t spend hours commuting in traffic – you might think you save time, but the reality is, with the loss of 9 to 5, you actually have a non-stop work environment. In fact, there’s often the pressure of responding to emails immediately, even at 9.00pm at night or over the weekend. I even heard a story last week about a teacher who had a call from a 10-year-old pupil at 11 pm at night because she wanted some help – the teacher quite rightly told them to go to bed and phone in the morning.
Back to virtual meetings, while I also miss the face-to-face of actually meeting people I do wonder where is it going next? I think next, it’s going to be highly advanced virtual reality. Imagine, if you want to plan a holiday you could plan it differently using virtual reality! You could sample the beach looking at the sea, feeling that sun, and hearing the waves crashing. If you want to plan your retirement you could even get to the place that you want to be. A wedding maybe, that new home, your funeral (oops perhaps that’s a bit too far for many!).