Working from home is nothing new for Altus Life & Pensions Director Will Watling. Having collected Will from his home for business meetings, I can confirm that he really does live in the middle of nowhere, so it’s no surprise that he sometimes struggles to get to the office. Over the last few years, we have been treated to several picturesque winter photographs of Will’s car buried under an enormous snow drift to accompany his WFH diary updates. Talking to him this week though, it turns out that Will’s relationship with home working goes back much further than that.
22 years ago, Will was working at Commercial Union and responsible for a work stream of a project to enable their broker consultants to work from home. Back then the concept was bleeding edge and involved dedicated phone lines, an upgrade to the latest 56k modems and overnight updates to synchronise Lotus Notes emails! To sweeten the deal for the consultants they even got to take delivery of the company’s very first colour laptops – although it sounds like laps were bigger in those days too!
Thankfully, these days everyone at Altus has a laptop, we’ve all become adept at using online collaboration tools (Microsoft Teams is the company standard) and even Will, in deepest, darkest Gloucestershire, has decent internet bandwidth. Consequently, he has spent most of the week appearing on other people’s screens sat in the middle of a field or outside his chicken coop courtesy of the new Teams personalised backgrounds feature.
To be fair to Will, most of those appearances have been work-related and he’s spent much of the week working through a tailored version of our PEAK capability model with one of our big L&P clients. The ability to collaborate remotely on a shared model has become central to the way we operate in Altus and Will has been able to help the client understand where their operation is most dependent on paper and manual activity. That, in turn, has enabled them to work out where to focus their attention over the coming weeks to streamline operations for the benefit of advisers and their clients.
Empowering as all this technology may be, it can still give you square eyes if you stare at a screen for too long, so Will has been mixing the online sessions up with walking the dogs, working through Netflix box sets and good old-fashioned phone calls. In fact, one of his key learnings since lockdown began is to pace yourself and not be tempted to just keep going all day in online video calls. It’s hard to fathom quite why it should be the case but lots of people I speak to agree with Will that a whole day on video calls is more exhausting than a day in the office.
The last bit of feedback I got from Will was about the importance of trust and organisational culture in our new remote and isolated work environment. Giving people the confidence and backing to take the initiative and make decisions can really help them to make a difference and get a sense of achievement from their work. I am pleased to report that Will says Altus has done just that and I am even happier to report that Will is paying that trust back in spades!
If you would like more information, or would like to speak with Will about any of the points raised in this article, please get in touch with a member of our Press Office team.