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When will we get back to ‘normal’?

AIMA (The Alternative Investment Management Association) recently conducted a poll of its members around returning to work following lockdown.

The results of the survey illustrate the change in working practices during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the length of time it may take to get back to a semblance of ‘normal’ or as we all are used to now hearing, ‘new normal’.

Under half of those that responded to the survey said they expected 50% or more of their teams of remote workers to return from being home based to the ‘new normal’ office before 1st of November 2020. With 1 in 5 firms saying they do not expect any staff to return before January 2021 which requires planning ahead to avoid disruption.

This aligns with what we are seeing and hearing directly from our own clients and partners.

Many are wanting to avoid the use of public transport, where possible, and wait for other industries to return to work and examine the effect that has on public health.

The threat of a second spike in the virus, and the further government restrictions that would follow, seem to be one of the major concerns with planning a return to the office.

62% of those surveyed said they were expecting to adopt a more liberal work-from-home policy in the future.

One of the challenges for many firms throughout this period has been the change in the use of remote working tools.

Previously, many had been designed for a small percentage of the workforce to work from home occasionally or a larger percentage for a short period of time, they needed to be scaled to service the demand of everyone working from home for an extended period due to social distancing.

The question for many firms now is, if working from home is going to be more common, what further changes need to be made into a managers plan to facilitate that long term? Ensuring their teams are as productive as possible, and people have the flexibility to work one day in the office and the next at home.

Only 38% of the 265 respondents said they expected to be able to receive visitors into their office in Q4 this year. Meetings with investors, partners and service providers would have been an everyday event for many firms within the alternative investment sector before March 2020.

With the physical changes required to office spaces as part of the COVID-19 secure advice from the department of health, UK government, large numbers of people from multiple settings in a meeting room still seem a long way off.

As a result, firms will need to continue to invest and expand their video conferencing capabilities during the course of 2020 and beyond.

Whilst poor audio quality when working from home and potential forms of disruption in the background may have been accepted during the first few weeks of lockdown restrictions, it’s likely that will change as expectations of a return to “normal” work continue.

Overall, our analysis of the results of the survey is that the Alternative Investment sector will be one of the last to return to office-based work.

As firms can work remotely and whilst the government advice is to work from home where possible, many will decide not to run the risk of their people being exposed on public transport as lockdown eases, which requires a greater look and forecast to future project planning.

As a result, working from home may continue well into 2021, as it seems inevitable that when firms do re-open their offices, once the risk of COVID-19 lessens a two-team approach will be used to limit the risk to the business and the people within it.

Within our business, we have seen changes in the last 4-6 weeks, whereby our clients and those with whom we are seeking to do business are re-starting planned projects, as they simply cannot afford to stand still whilst waiting to return to their offices.

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