So far, this morning, I have been interrupted by children four times (one of which was to bring me some sourdough toast, to be fair), have lost audio or video connection with a colleague, twice (and with a client, once), and have had to deal with a colourful variety of noise pollutants: dogs; determined house builders; zoom calls from other rooms in the house. However, I slept in slightly longer, saw my wife and children intermittently, and managed to attend eight meetings. I also got some work done. This snapshot of my morning is not expected to thrill, excite or fascinate you. In fact, I suspect it is a very familiar rundown of events, if you live with children in a suburb.
I’ve been paying particular attention to how working from home has affected how easy it is to work effectively and how it interplays with broader topics, such as work-life balance, stress management and mindfulness. Indeed, observant readers will have seen that MJ Hudson recently published, in conjunction with eVestment Private Markets, the Work-Life Balance Report: Happy people, high performance – successful strategies in private markets.
I’ll go into some of the findings from our work-life survey of more than 300 private markets professionals in a moment (and provide you with a link to access the report) but, first, I want to invite you to take part in a quick survey of your own. It’s very short and maybe even quite fun. In any case, I’d very much appreciate you taking just a few minutes to complete it before continuing to read more about the work-life balance report.
So, back to the survey we conducted with eVestment Private markets.
I promised to provide you with a link to download the full report (which you can do here).
Inside you will find a host of interesting and, hopefully, very useful information. As it happens we did ask about working from home, before it was cool. Whilst now, all of us have a lot more experience with working from home, before COVID-19 hit, only 7% of private markets professionals were regularly working from home. How things have changed…
Even though the most professionals in our industry are not used to this mode of working, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to adapt. Readily available devices (mobile phones, laptops etc.) and infrastructure investments (as firms and processes have digitised and become more sophisticated) mean that office-life-just-not-in-the-office is viable, even if the environment may not be super-conducive.
Let’s take a closer look at just a couple of the areas that we covered in our research and how our most recent experiences might influence changes in behaviours that we may have previously thought more persistent.
Video (conferencing) killed the radio star
Our research showed us that one of the main things that people enjoy about their job is the social interaction, whether that be with colleagues, or clients. Close to half of our study participants cited some form of social interaction as the most enjoyable aspect of their job. Clearly, isolation makes actual proximity to other humans more challenging. We have been forced to move to the video conference as a key communications medium. Now that we are all more familiar with Teams, Zoom and the like, in a professional setting, perhaps we can recognise the advantages, rather than just the issues. The failings of the audio-only conference call are well-known and well-documented. Conducting a call with more than 2 people, where it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell who is speaking (or who is about to speak) can be frustrating. Video conferences, to a degree, solve this problem, and they also make it more comfortable for distributed workforces to get more “face” time with each other – without the need to fly across continents.
We think that more meetings will now be video conferences, saving time and money for all involved, not to speak of the positive ESG impact…
Relax, don’t do it
One of the most stressful parts of the day, can be the commute to the office, whether by car or public transport (or, in the case of 1% of respondents, by plane). One of the perks of working from home, is the time saved by not having to commute. On average, private markets spend well over an hour each day travelling to and from work, compared with the much briefer and less crowded gauntlet of bedroom to home office, whether dedicated room or makeshift “kitchen table office”. So, what is everyone doing with this extra time, I wonder? Apart from a bit of a longer lie-in, they are probably working. Indeed, 21% of our survey respondents said that they usually did some work on the commute into the office.
In an industry where coping with an unpredictable workload already generates significant stress, we expect to see more professionals working from home, more frequently, if only to manufacture the time needed to keep on top of things.
Of course, forward-thinking Managing Partners and CEOs will want to stay ahead of this trend and will encourage these more environmentally responsible and time-efficient practices, before they are asked…