March 2020 will long be remembered as the month that changed the world in perhaps the most dramatic fashion ever seen. I can’t think of any past world event or crisis which directly affected every single person on the planet in the way Covid-19 has.
Up until that point, the perceived wisdom within the pensions industry was that administration could not, and should not, be carried out remotely. This view was very widely held; looking back, I can’t remember it ever being particularly challenged.
However, as the old saying goes ‘must do is a great master’. Many companies faced a huge challenge to make themselves ‘home-working ready’. We were perhaps much better positioned than most, but we still had a final body of work to be closed out in a short space of time.
The full transition to home-working went very smoothly for us, with no detrimental impact on client service at all. In fact, it could be argued that service may indeed have actually improved with the acceleration of online servicing.
Best of both worlds
We now find ourselves in June 2021, with lockdown restrictions easing by the day and the vaccination programme rolling out at pace. So, what does the future hold for administrators and what will back to the office (if indeed this is what actually happens) look like?
The industry has proven it can work remotely, with no impact to service. So, the determining factors will largely be driven by work-life balance, recruitment/retention needs and those activities which are much better suited to a face-to-face scenario (e.g. induction, training, collaborative brain-storming activities, nurturing professional relationships etc).
The result will be a range of outcomes. At one extreme, some firms have already started to close offices and move some employees permanently to working from home. This won’t be suitable for all (due to domestic arrangements etc). The other extreme of fully returning to the office is likely to be an exception to the norm in practice.
The best result it would seem will be a balance of both worlds. Spend time in the office and most importantly with colleagues, focusing on activities that improve the experience of work and the delivery of client service. And use the flexibility to work from home to find a balance that enables us to embed some of the lifestyle improvements that we want to maintain.
Employers who can, and do, offer hybrid working arrangements, will be seen to have the edge from a recruitment/retention perspective. Indeed, some evidence would suggest that incorporating more remote working can also lead to increased productivity, lower absenteeism and lower staff turnover.