As money managers and the rest of the workforce prepare for a return to the office, it is important to not lose sight of lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent Pensions & Investments story on managers' plans for returning to the office showed a consensus on firms maintaining a flexible schedule — at least in the short term. In a recent P&I reader poll on our website, employees in the investment management industry also showed a preference for at least some kind of hybrid working arrangement.
While there are certainly challenges to working only remotely, there are benefits that bear keeping in mind. The absence of a commute, for instance, has surely improved employees' work-life balance. Working parents and caregivers, for example, have had more opportunity for an accommodative schedule. The search for talent can be wider and more diverse when proximity to an office is less of an issue.
Yes, it is important for a company to build and maintain a positive culture, and working collaboratively in an office often is a key ingredient. But a culture of accommodation, inclusion and flexibility is what many employees have come to expect over these past 15 months. The firms that are able to blend what was gained with rediscovering what was lost are likely to be those that succeed.
A return to the office can put a bigger spotlight on a firm's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Managers have made large strides in how they talk about addressing diversity and inclusion issues and pay gaps, but with people back in the office and not just separated into various Zoom groups, a firm's level of improvement in these areas will become apparent.
There's, of course, not one playbook that will work in this new reality. Each firm will need to figure out what works best for its needs.
But the fact is most people don't want to go back to the way things were. Managers would be wise to take this into account when it comes to recruitment and retention.
After all, a recent CFA Institute study found that 81% of respondents want to work remotely, at least part of the time. And while 60% are confident that their leaders can manage teams in a hybrid work environment, concerns do remain that it will be more challenging for managers to be effective in a hybrid working environment than if everyone were working remotely.