Why smart working is here to stay

  • Rafael Campos Valdez
  • 21 May 2021
  • Blog | Leadership & Strategy | Blog

“My fear is that this shift to smart working might be seen by some businesses as a temporary requirement.” Rafael Campos Valdez, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, AXA IM

There is a silver lining in the move to remote working. Of course, it wasn’t optional, but what the pandemic has done is speed up the implementation of effective smart working initiatives. It’s pushed companies – especially smaller, boutique companies that have a more traditional way of operating – into the world of remote working completely overnight. People in the industry who swore that our work couldn’t be done remotely are now seeing it being done.  

At AXA IM we had already adopted smart working, which was a move towards more flexible, remote working, but the pandemic took it to the next level quite quickly. It reaffirmed that the direction of travel was the right one. The fear I have is that this might be seen by some businesses as a temporary requirement and that we might regress to the more traditional, nine-to-five, face to face culture when things ‘go back to normal’.  

As an industry, we need to ensure that this isn’t just an emergency, knee-jerk response, but that the changes we’ve seen and the technology infrastructure we’ve rolled out to our employees to allow them to work remotely, continues to be put to use. We want to see the cultural change stick. 

I think diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies are pivotal in future-proofing businesses around the new way of working – of smart working, of flexible working, of stepping away from the in-office culture – in a way that employees trust. If your D&I highlights the importance of this in the way you operate as a business, that gives confidence to employees to work remotely or flexibly. They don’t have to worry about the fear of being seen as uncommitted or whatever negative stigma might historically have been attached to it.  

At a macro level, when we look at the investment industry but also in general, businesses also need to recognise that there will be an impact on D&I strategies as a result of COVID-19. For example, we’ve already seen the rate and speed of hiring be impacted. Because the knee-jerk reaction to lacking diversity is to hire more diverse talent into the business, it’s important for companies to realise that if this door is closing, we need to look at retaining our current talent, our promotion processes, our high potential programmes, and our succession plans.  

All of these things can still help us create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, even in this strange, COVID world we’re currently living in. 

For more from Rafael Campos Valdez, read our diversity and inclusion feature, ‘Tick and blink: The perils of deprioritising D&I’, on p46 of the Winter 2021 issue of Chartered Banker magazine