Like everybody else, I’m working from home at the moment. As a portfolio manager, its required some adaptability, but I think it’s all working well. I’ve realised how much time I save on my commute, and generally, bureaucracy is easier to navigate. Working from home has given me more time to be with my family as well. Now that lockdown is easing, and my kids are going back to school, I want to make the case that I should work from home three days a week even after Covid-19. I’ve demonstrated that it can be done, but I worry that asset management is still a career where ‘face time’ is important. I don’t want my career to suffer, but at the same time, I think this has been a valuable experience, and has not impacted my professionalism or my ability to do my job. What should I do? How is the best way to negotiate this without losing future career opportunities?
This is a great question. The situation you describe I'm sure will be common to many, and I myself have spoken to a number of people who have described their intention to reduce the number of days they travel to the office each week in order to gain the benefits they have experienced by working from home. Employees have a statutory right to request a flexible work arrangement (which includes working from home) and organisations will have a flexible working policy and procedure. Whilst the statutory right puts the requirement on organisations to give reasonable consideration to every application, there are grounds on which they can refuse to grant a flexible working arrangement. They do have to provide the grounds on which the application has been turned down, and an employee can appeal the decision. Therefore, the first step is to get access to that policy and make an application.
With regard to asset management companies having a culture that requires face time, my observation is that this is changing, and some organisations are seeing the benefits of their employees working from home. For example, the option to reduce the amount of office space they need, therefore reducing office accommodation costs.
In terms of the impact on future career opportunities, what won't change is the need to build relationships and demonstrate your capabilities with the key people who are making decisions that will impact on your career. Working from home and being less visible may mean that you will have to work harder to build those relationships as they will happen less naturally with reduced face time but that can be done. You may need to do this in a more conscious, deliberate and proactive way than before so that you are not overlooked when the opportunities arise. One way to do this would be to organise as many face to face meetings and coffee catch ups when you do go into the office. Another is to identify and approach a mentor, and ask for their help to figure out exactly who are those leaders who might have a say in a decision about opportunities that you might be right for. Then you can look for ways to spend time with them, ideally through projects and pieces of work, but if that's not an option then for more informal interactions.
Hopefully the benefits of a more flexible workforce will outweigh the down sides and organisations will adapt their approaches to ensure talented individuals are identified, promoted and retained effectively.
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