Beyond The Pandemic

Remote working and views on operating beyond the pandemic

For many of us, the most immediate impact of the pandemic has been swapping an office for a dining room table or a desk at home.

The changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have hit hard and fast, and it will be a long time before we fully understand the financial and social impact the crisis has had.

While by the end of last year many of us would have baulked at the suggestion, for many the act of switching over to a work-from-home lifestyle has been surprisingly smooth.

“Some businesses have been through a whirlwind. Volkswagen FS had to restructure a team that had to be in the office hardwired into a mainframe, but within 48 hours they moved that to a solution where people could work from home. Every business needs to be suited to remote working,” explains Karen Hilton, chief commercial officer for heycar UK.

“I think people will surprise themselves over how quickly they can adapt to it and how quickly the technology becomes working and functional. We’re in an age where the Cabinet is meeting by Zoom meeting.”

On the whole, however, motor finance, like most office-based sectors, has seen a growing if gradual shift in the direction of remote working long before the pandemic appeared on our radars.

“We certainly had the capability to do so. We hadn’t gone to the lengths of having a remote working policy in place. In modern management it feels you’ve failed if you need a policy in place but we’re a cloud-based business so when the call came we were one of the lucky ones because we didn’t really have to change anything,” Hilton observes.

“We had all the tools we needed, we just had to utilise them all. With the management team at HeyCar our office is in London, I live in Brighton and I’ve always worked from home every Wednesday. Practically and productivity-wise it’s a day of focused thinking time for long-term or medium-term projects.”

Necessity is the mother of invention

However, there’s no denying that even if that trend was already there, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated it, and there has been a period of adjustment.

“If you look at what’s happened over the last three weeks, everyone felt week one was a bit busy and frantic. By the end of week one everyone was a bit tired because if you’re in a room physically you can see people and read their body language, which is harder in a video conference,” Hilton says.

It is worth bearing in mind that people are not working from home because it’s a fad or trend or The Next Big Thing

“As a leadership team in the second week, we took the call to balance the cadence of the business. We kept key meetings in the diary but started to pull some meetings to give people a bit more space. With a business such as ours we’ve got a lot of suppliers we’re working with, so all of those in-person meetings became video conferences and they run a little bit longer.

So the one big change is being a bit ruthless with the diary, making sure key meetings stay in place but ensuring there’s that balance of communication and touchpoints.”

Despite everything we’ve learned through this experience, however, it is worth bearing in mind that people are not working from home because it’s a fad or trend or The Next Big Thing. A meme that’s seen an awful lot of circulation recently is “You’re not working from home, you’re at home trying to work during a crisis”.

“We’re a small team with a variety of age groups all working in a situation we’ve not seen in our lifetime,” Hilton points out. “None of us have seen this level of crisis before, so the other secondary benefit to that is you start to see characters deliver real leadership. The one thing I would say is there’s going to be one hell of a celebration when we all get back together!”