In 2021, more than 25% of the American workforce is expected to continue to work remotely – but many are starting to phase back into the days of commuting, being in a physical office space again, and business travel is starting to pick up. As we inch closer to returning to the office, select professions like financial services, where many roles were deemed essential, can serve as a compass for which practices to embrace and key considerations for making the transition smoother for employees, clients, and yourself.
The Employee Experience
For employees going back to the office, ask them what they’re most looking forward to and which new techniques they’ve implemented while being remote. Prior to a forced state of remote work, the fear was that being removed from the office and away from colleagues would cause productivity to drop. This past year has proven that isn’t the case, and studies have shown that employees working from home are a staggering 47% more productive. Continue to foster an environment of productivity, connectedness, and mindfulness by getting creative – for example, take your team huddles on the go and walk and talk about goals, achievements, and struggles of the week. Everyone will appreciate the fresh air and the break from a digital screen.
Furthermore, employees have just experienced an entire year in which they’ve observed businesses accommodating their staff by allowing much more flexibility. This can mean that when situations arise where they need to work from home, there might be an expectation to honor that flexibility and keep the technology in place, which has made doing so adequate. Consider what that might look like and whether expectations or even policies will need to be reset to accommodate needs. The benefit is that the required technology is likely in place already.
The Client Experience
Transitioning to being in person with our clients will require a bit more forethought and planning to ensure everyone is comfortable. Be mindful that not everyone is going back to face-to-face interactions at the same pace – some may not be comfortable with, say, a handshake – a social norm that was once natural and engrained in normal business practice. It carries special significance when delivering financial advice as it can signify an authentic welcome, an agreement, or a squeeze of support to convey empathy which is particularly needed when a client is navigating tough decisions about money. Yet, we find financial advisors are now taking a pause and respectfully asking permission prior to shaking hands. Professionals are also extending extra space in meeting rooms and looking to simple gestures to convey that message of care in the absence of a handshake or hug.
Before a client visit, be proactive and prepare with things that can help everyone feel more protected – like having a bottle of sanitizer handy or asking if they prefer to meet outdoors instead of inside. There may also be a desire for some financial decision-makers in a household to continue in a virtual capacity – embrace the flexibility and peace of mind that this provides to some.
To make client visits easier on the team, consider outlining new expectations and standards regarding client-facing interactions – some have seen success being very forthright in discussing what the client feels comfortable with ahead of time, which ultimately opens lines of communication and fosters a stronger relationship.
Your Own Experience
Finally, give yourself grace. Everyone is going to adjust to this new “new normal” at their own pace, so walk before you run if you need to, and don’t do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. This past year has served as a time to appreciate and embrace where we are and what’s important to us, and it would be a shame to lose sight of that. Yes, we all have a job to do and metrics to meet, but proactively work with your organization to create a cohesive environment that allows high performance and a safe space.
When the day comes and you return to work with a full staff back in the office, take a moment to pause and appreciate what it took for us to get there.
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