Our business development director John Winstanley opens the doors on his new work-from-home life.
Now we are well into this second period of ‘lockdown’, I thought it would be interesting to share my personal experience of working from home.
I have always been very routine-orientated and have strived maintain one while working from home. So, every morning my alarm goes off at 5.45am and like clockwork, I hit snooze at least twice. When I eventually stir, I’ll head downstairs trying not to wake the rest of the family and have my first coffee fix of the day.
2019 was an extremely busy year for us as a family. I joined Clarion, we welcomed our son Caspar into the world and we moved into a new house. With a new baby we knew that time for health and fitness may be limited and so we decided to convert our garage into a home gym which, given the current situation, was possibly the best investment we have ever made! I spend about 45 minutes in the gym each morning, which I find sets me up for a productive day of work. Caspar is almost certainly awake by this point and we’ll have breakfast together as a family, before I head off upstairs to get ready for work, a noticeably quicker process now that the usual suit/tie combinations don’t need to be considered.
I am very fortunate in that I have an office at home, although my fiancé Kate does continue to threaten that this will one day become ANOTHER nursery! My first port of call is checking in with Jacob, my Associate Financial Planner and Sharon, my Adviser Client Support. We discuss any emails that have been received overnight, things to do for the day ahead and any preparation that may be required for forthcoming meetings. One downside of working from home is that communication between the three of us can be slightly slower. To overcome this, we frequently speak on the phone and have a WhatsApp group for more urgent matters.
Every morning we have a leadership team meeting via Microsoft Teams. This is a chance for the board and other key individuals to discuss any points raised from the previous day and generally keep a handle on how the company and staff are coping with the change of working environment. I should note that at this point, I have usually been evicted from my office, as Caspar will be having his morning nap. Kate advises me that I am like a foghorn when I am on a video call!
Following the meeting with the leadership team, I will usually spend the rest of the morning catching up on emails and completing any final preparation for meetings in the coming days. We then head out for our daily dose of fresh air on a family walk. This is one aspect of ‘lockdown’ and working from home I have really enjoyed. We look forward to them each day and are lucky to have fantastic countryside on our doorstep, of which we now take full advantage. I hope this is something we will continue once normality resumes, even if we get out in the early evening after work.
An important part of a normal working day is client Annual Planning Meetings. With clients, we take their Lifelong Financial Plan apart and put it back together again to ensure it works and will help them to achieve their long-term objectives. They are extremely involved meetings and no stone is left unturned when it comes to exploring the client’s financial affairs and all the items which impact their Lifelong Financial Plan.
My clients derive huge value from these meetings and I was apprehensive how they would operate away from the usual face-to face-format. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. The majority of my clients have opted to keep to their scheduled Annual Planning Meetings and we have held these via Zoom – a word I’m sure many of us had never uttered in this context until a few weeks ago.
The meetings have all gone very well and feedback has been excellent. This is testament to the robust and repeatable process we use for all these meetings and have done for decades. Clients receive an agenda prior to the meeting, so that they are aware of all of the items I plan to discuss and this gives them opportunity to raise any questions beforehand. Jacob dials into the meeting so he can get a first-hand understanding of the client’s objectives, which is important as he acts as a second point of contact for them in the office.
I can share my screen during the Annual Planning Meeting on Zoom, meaning clients are able to view the financial planning software we use and any other relevant information I wish to show them. This aspect of holding the meeting via video call has been very effective, as clients are very focussed on the screen and don’t have the usual distractions an office environment can bring… cue Caspar crying as he wakes from his afternoon nap!
The meeting is followed with minutes, ensuring the client has a full summary of all the points discussed and any action points that need to be addressed. Following the meeting, Jacob and I will stay on Zoom and review the meeting agreeing what needs to be done next.
I switch my laptop off at 5pm and with every day currently being a Friday, I will enjoy a glass of wine before making dinner and helping Kate bath Caspar and put him to bed.
As a business, we are well geared up to work remotely, with the processes we have in place and many of our systems being cloud-based. Everyone at Clarion has rolled their sleeves up and got on with the important task of ensuring our clients continue to receive the extremely high levels of service to which they are accustomed. Whilst it isn’t quite business as usual, it is pretty close. Working from home has also meant I have seen more of Kate and Caspar, although I’m sure the former will enjoy some respite from me when I am able to return to the office.
I read an article by the former in-house therapist at Google a week or so ago and thought the following was an interesting point: ‘Remember, you’re not just working from home, you’re trying to work during a global pandemic crisis at your home’. These are unusual times and working from home undoubtedly comes with its own stresses, with everyone riding the same steep learning curve as we adjust to the current situation. With that in mind, we should all remember – above all else – to go easy on ourselves and others.
If you’d like more information about this article, or any other aspect of our true lifelong financial planning, we’d be happy to hear from you. Please call +44 (0)1625 466 360 or email email@example.com.