ALASTAIR LEWIS, SENIOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER AT BLACKFINCH, DISCUSSES HIS TOP TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your working life? How have you found working from home versus being on the road?
Since lockdown began, my days have generally been spent tucked away in half of my old garage which is now my small office. I have worked from home for the last 20 years – but the difference this time is that I am always at home. I do miss the variety of travelling around and meeting advisers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England. It has nonetheless been really great being with the family more, especially at mealtimes, albeit my waistline has taken a hit though the various delicacies that find their way onto my desk from my two daughters who just love to bake!
How have you kept in touch with advisers?
From day one of lockdown I kept in touch with advisers, initially on the phone, and subsequently on video calls. It was a time when we were all plunged into a different way of life at work and within our families – it was important to check in and support people where possible. LinkedIn has also been a brilliant way of keeping us all connected during what has been, for many, a difficult time.
What would be your advice for meetings via a video call?
I found that they took a little bit of getting used to. It is easy to talk over someone when there is a slight delay on the line, making it even more important to listen carefully. Putting your camera on, taking yourself off mute and not sitting too close to the laptop were among the first lessons learned. Sharing your screen with the permission of advisers has however been a real gamechanger to make meetings focused, effective and an efficient use of time. One nice feature has been the amount of kids, dogs and cats that have also made special Zoom guest appearances!
What are your top tips to working from home? For example, how do you stay motivated/focused?
When working at home permanently, I have found it important to have a routine. That for me is having a run first thing in the morning as the best way to set up for the day. I also have set times during the day to get away from my desk – whether for a coffee, fresh air, or a bite of lunch when the kids have theirs. With five in our home the kitchen has been like Piccadilly Circus many a lunchtime! When your office is only ever a few feet away, it is also important to be able to walk away from it at the end of the day… Recharge, refresh and be ready to take on another day.
What resources have you found most useful when working with advisers throughout this period?
I would say Zoom and Teams have been a revelation. Like many others, before lockdown I would not have known where to have started with video calls. Being able to take advisers through presentation material and video content, when appropriate, has worked well. Many advisers have found the video meetings more effective and productive. And with so many clients of advisers, of all ages, now having also become comfortable using Zoom with their families, video calls are undoubtedly here to stay. Similarly, when it came to submitting business during lockdown, advisers found the enhanced processes that we introduced, including electronic applications, and the ability to send scanned applications, invaluable. These have also become part of how we all continue to adapt to the changing circumstances.