The planners’ guide to effective remote working

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to the work patterns of businesses globally and financial planners certainly aren’t immune. By Kate Cowling.

If the foundation of your business is face-to-face consultations, social distancing rules will require you to restructure your firm for the short to medium term. For many, this may be a daunting prospect.  

However, with the right strategies in place, the crisis brings the opportunity to pivot your business for survival and potentially longer-term growth. 

Rewriting your plan for the year

Few of us expected to spend the majority of 2020 isolated from colleagues and clients, which means expectations for the year will have to be revisited.

Business strategist and performance coach Stephanie Bogan suggests those who need a circuit breaker should write a list of goals and create a quarterly action plan, with sub-goals.

“You might put “hire a top-notch paraplanner” in Q1, with three key sub-actions such as: (1) create job description; (2) find virtual planner resources; and (3) put together compensation package. Then, assign a due date to each action to create commitment,” she wrote in the Journal of Financial Planning.

“What matters most here is that you take the first step to implementing it, as that means you’re focusing your energy in the direction of your goals,” she said.

“Maintaining that momentum is critical to your success.”

Establishing a productive home-based routine

In terms of the day-to-day operations, there could be a period of adjustment if you’re used to working in an office-based environment.

Occupational psychologist Dr Christine Grant and her colleagues have studied the association between remote working and productivity and found some practices improve it more than others.

“Factors which were associated with increased productivity included working quietly without interruption, ensuring work was completed on time, concentration on writing large documents,” they wrote in Employee Relations

In other words, setting up a workspace away from family members or housemates and sticking to daily task lists and deadlines could reduce the disruption this transition may otherwise bring.

The avoidance of noise and social activities in the office has also been associated with increased productivity but may not bring wellbeing benefits during the coronavirus shutdown.

Regular interaction via video networking has been recognised as a potential panacea to feelings of further isolation. Several law and consulting firms have set up virtual team lunches and drinks to improve morale in the past six weeks to encourage continued networking.

Managing clients

Many businesses will have already emailed their client or customer base to tell them how they are adapting their practices in line with the new rules. If you haven’t done this already, it should be high on your priority list.

Initial communications should include how you are now delivering advice, your reaction to current events, other tools available to them (for example, webinars and forums) and how they can get in touch.

Clients will be anxious about their retirement savings and the recent volatility and may need frequent reassurance. Offering a variety of consultation options, including video and phone conferencing and regular emails, may allay some of their concerns. Going beyond that and providing webinars, Facebook or Instagram live events or pre-filmed updates could set you apart from other firms.

Prioritising health

The health challenges for the duration of this crisis extend beyond the virus itself and planners will need to be cognisant of their own emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as that of their clients.

SafeWork Australia has developed a checklist for people working from home during the pandemic and recommends several strategies to stay healthy, including regular breaks from the workspace, good lighting, an ergonomic desk set up and regular meetings with colleagues and managers.

Ultimately, the next few months will require a bit of experimentation, but the establishment of good patterns and goals could make you a more dynamic operator into the future.

 

Kate Cowling is a former editor of Professional Planner.

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