Sam had become a bit of an expert in long-distance working even before the practice was forced on us by the COVID-19 lockdown. As understudy to Simon Bussy’s “Mister Robo”, Sam has turned into “Junior Robo” which has seen him get involved in several assignments for overseas clients looking to bring their wares to the UK market. Given the distances involved, much of the work on those projects was conducted remotely over Teams and Zoom and Sam got used to building relationships via a screen, often late at night thanks to the way time zones work.
You would think then that Sam would be ideally suited to the “new normal” of a virtual office job where all our interactions are two-dimensional. However, the transition hasn’t been quite that straightforward. For a start, Sam is a natural entertainer and revels in his role as the Altus office comedian. Dressing up as Elvis Presley for the weekly team video meeting is quite amusing but nowhere near as funny as sending spoof emails to the Managing Director from a colleague’s unlocked laptop.
Sam is sociable and gregarious too. Friday Team drinks at the virtual pub as he swipes right on some app is no substitute for a boozy Friday night across the road from the office with colleagues and a crowd of Bath rugby fans. Marooned in Swindon watching the occasional GWR train whoosh by is not what Sam had in mind when he told us he was moving to “The Gateway to the Cotswolds”.
Then there are the ergonomics of the situation. Sam spent the first 10 weeks of lockdown working in his kitchen on a dining room chair before noticing the back pain. A mercy mission from the company MD delivered his office chair to a Swindon rendezvous and that’s helped but it’s still not the same. Sam misses the office banter, the bean-to-coffee machine and his daily trip to Dunkin Donuts as punishment for leaving his laptop unlocked.
Despite all these hardships, Sam has managed to keep busy and positive during the pandemic. Over the last 3 months he’s worked for 2 robo advisers, 2 life companies, a platform and a national advice firm. Research, meetings, workshops, interviews and presentations have all been done remotely and Sam has delved deep into the risk profiling and advice frameworks being used around the world. In alphabetical order, Sam has spoken to firms in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and UAE as well as in the UK. All without leaving his house.
Client feedback on the outputs has been excellent, so the virtual globetrotting practice has obviously paid off. But next time, Sam says he would very much like to meet our clients in person. Just not in Swindon.