This week, Altus Head of Retirement Strategy Jon Dean describes his working life since the UK went into lockdown.
As a consultant, Jon is used to planning, producing and delivering client work wherever he’s needed. Jon has worked on assignments based in the UK and overseas, fully on-site or in the Altus office and usually bookmarked by kick-off and presentation workshops at client offices. On occasion, meetings and playbacks have even had to take place in discreet cafes near to the client’s offices where booking a room can prove impossible without weeks of advance notice.
To this list, Jon can now add a personal first; an assignment delivered entirely remotely from beginning to end. During the first week of lockdown, a customer in the Irish Republic needed Altus’ help with their business case for a concept-stage strategic initiative. To make matters more complicated, the client was still gearing up for home working and the company had not yet rolled out video conferencing facilities to employees’ mobile devices. Without ever having met the client in person, Jon and his team facilitated a voice-only teleconference call to scope the assignment and establish their detailed requirements. Documents were shared over secure email so all five participants could follow the context of the meeting. The call lasted over two and a half hours, with a short break halfway through, and was, Jon tells me, “intense”.
Over the following two weeks, Jon used Teams to collaborate with colleagues, gathering intelligence, calling on the knowledge of other Altus experts, and accessing the wealth of industry insight contained in our suite of PEAK industry models and internal KnowledgeBase, all securely available to the team online. These tools and working practices have become part of “business as usual” for Altus consultants for over a year now (Teams was rolled out to an initially sceptical user base at the end of 2018).
Meanwhile the client suggested holding video meetings and progress calls using Zoom, which Jon’s team was easily able to accommodate. Being able to see his clients, and in an informal setting, helped to build a rapport and a sound working foundation on which to explore their requirements in more depth using PEAK, interactively drilling into as much detail as needed. Jon acknowledges that it’s not the same as being in the same room together, but the end result is still the impressive, insightful and high-quality report I know to expect from him.
Jon’s experience of working at home for long periods has not been without its downsides. He does have the keyboard, mouse, large monitor and stand from the office but his dining room table and chair are no substitute for a proper desk and swivel chair. He tells me he misses the buzz of office chatter, the watercooler moments in the kitchen, easy lunchtime access to the city centre and the routine discipline of his ten-mile commute by bike.
On the other hand, the view from his new “office” encompasses the bird and plant life of emerging spring, with a far-reaching vista over farm fields. With the time freed up from his commute Jon has taken up yoga and still manages one daily bike ride around local roads virtually free of motoring hazards. He’s even managed a few internal Teams calls from his garden table, which the Wi-Fi signal just about reaches.
Jon shared one more tip with me on working from home; when your office is in your living space, create a physical barrier around your desk area when you’ve done for the day. He uses an oversize picture from the spare room, so the laptop is out of sight until after breakfast!
If you would like more information, or would like to talk to Jon about any of the points raised in this article, please get in touch with a member of our Press Office team.