January 21, 2021
I was interested to read that Aviva have announced that working from home will become the norm for their employees. They will close some buildings, but there are no job losses and at least some office space will be retained in all of the UK cities they currently have offices in. The expectation is that staff will use the office space on a rotation basis - the typical employee working from the office one day a week and at home the rest of the time.
While there have been widespread predictions that the Coronavirus pandemic will profoundly and permanently change the way we work, it is eye-opening to see how quickly the predictions are coming true - or have already come true. Will workforces forced to become remote during the pandemic ever go back to being permanently office-based? Aviva’s announcement answers that question emphatically for their workers, and it’s highly likely that many other companies will follow suit. The work from home revolution is upon us.
As a resident of Norwich for the past twenty years, I have of course spent some time employed by Aviva (it’s like a sort of National Service in these parts). In 2005, I started out in Group Personal Pensions based in the Temple House office and in 2007 I moved to the Corporate Benefits team based in Sentinel House. In total I spent six years working in Aviva’s Norwich city centre offices, and I can testify that the office culture was special and there are many aspects of it that I miss.
Since leaving Aviva in 2011, I have always worked remotely: first when I was working on the launch of Nest, then in my stint at Royal London and since 2016 in my current role at PensionSync.
I actually remember my first day working from home. I put on a shirt and work trousers just like I would have done if I was going to the office. I have since explained this by saying that I didn’t feel like I was going to work unless I was dressed in work clothes - but I think actually there was some paranoia involved: some idea that my boss might suddenly knock on my door and cart me off to the office to do some proper work. The guilt of working from home - the notion that you might be considered to be “skiving” is something that can take a while to come to terms with.
Overall though, my personal experience of working from home is that it can be more productive than working from the office. This is partly because of the saved commuting time, and there actually being fewer distractions at home than in the office. I can shut myself away from my wife, dog and toddler at home, I can’t shut myself away from my colleagues if I’m in an open-plan office.
The flip-side is that you never get to “go home” from work at the end of the day and it’s easy to find yourself working outside of normal office hours. It’s important to draw some boundaries, and flexible working can help with that. I look after my little girl on Fridays while my wife is working (from home), and this helps me to maintain a reasonable work-life balance.
At PensionSync, our working practices have been largely unaffected by the pandemic. Our workforce was home-based, paperless and cloud-based before COVID anyway. Not all companies are in the same boat. For many individuals and businesses the idea of permanently ditching the paper files and face-to-face meetings and moving to digital and virtual working may feel like a culture shock. If you need help or guidance on how best to adapt your working culture please feel free to get in touch. As well as being able to share our own experience and knowledge, we have an extensive network of service providers, software companies and advisers we can put you in touch with.
After several years of pure pension scheme implementation, the opportunity for change excited me.
Balancing parenting and working is challenging at the best of times but it does bring opportunities.