Together Tomorrow - how are we coping with the Covid-19 crisis?
COVID-19 has heralded an era of unprecedented global transformation, professionally and personally for us all.
Across seven days, seven voices from across our business shared their experiences of how they’re continuing to serve clients while trying to cope with current challenges, safe in the knowledge that, soon, we will all be Together Tomorrow.
Growing through New Ways of Working
Amelie Watelet, Chief Transformation Officer and Global Head of Human Resources & Communications
What is the greatest challenge you are facing in your role during the current global crisis?
In a word, balance. In the first two weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown in Europe and the US our business, like many others, needed to continue the transformation we had already started to experience in our Asia offices at an accelerated pace. For me, this meant multiple committee meetings, catching up individually with employees to ensure they were coping, and putting frameworks in place to keep the business running remotely. We have long recognised the importance of working flexibly and we are fortunate to already have many of the technologies in place.
But that is just a part of it. Outside of work, it’s about dealing with the pressures of confinement as a partner and a mother. Alongside my day job, I’ve become a school teacher to my 7-year-old son and continue to manage with a 9-month old baby. Balance in finding a way to juggle both professional and personal life has never been more challenging. Working remotely and being under lockdown restrictions is certainly blurring the lines. My challenge will be to ensure greater distinction in my different roles.
What have you adapted successfully in your way of working?
Our teams have adapted extraordinarily well to home working. The world is going through a big transformation. We’re using video conferencing, along with other tools, to stay in touch with each other. Like many others, I am becoming proficient in platforms I had not previously encountered.
This excites me, as today’s successes show that some element of homeworking isn’t just an option, but a viable way of running a business long-term. In that sense, COVID-19 has shown that the business can run as usual outside of offices and deliver the same quality of performance for our clients. It has accelerated many of the behaviours that, under normal circumstances, would have taken much longer to take root.
At home now, my son has his own setup in our living room. Whilst I’m on work calls, he focusses on school work. This ‘office sharing’ has truly sparked his interest and he now understands how important it is to learn English to communicate with people all over the world. As a family we’ve been busy trying out new pastimes… cooking, dancing, singing. It’s important to make the most of being together.
What do you miss most and why?
Hugging friends, grabbing a coffee with people in the office. Physical interaction is such an important part of my culture. I’ve even begun missing commuting! In general, it’s about missing ‘normal’ as we learn to adapt to the new normal.
What has improved in the job you do?
Without a doubt, efficiency. Remote working can be an intense experience. Each day has a specific agenda, usually filled with multiple meetings and deadlines. It’s never been more important to deliver work on time with focussed outputs. At the same time, it’s important that we all lookout for each other, ensuring colleagues have all the support they need.
As everyone is remote working, perceptions of it are changing. COVID-19 has shown people that the possibilities of technology and the trusted mindset that our business has towards its people, means efficiency is not an issue. I am convinced this experience has demonstrated to any doubters the benefits of remote and flexible working.
What have you been most surprised by?
I am moved by our collective resilience, although the fact that everyone across AXA IM organised and adapted themselves so quickly to the situation shouldn’t surprise me.
Mental health awareness is incredibly important. The need to be connected to each other during our working days has meant it’s easy to get lost in back-to-back calls – which can be a strain. Given this, a lot of people have been surprised by how intense home working can be. It’s almost counter intuitive because when you’re at home you should have more time. It’s the opposite though, as days blend together and it’s easy to skip breaks.
What will you tackle / improve next week?
The challenge of hyper-connectivity. Day-to-day we’re talking to each more than ever before. Our business has never felt more globally united.
Also, this means it is even more important to effectively manage your time: by taking regular breaks, and ensuring you have the energy and headspace to continue working, while caring for yourself and your family.
What will you retain / keep up when normality resumes?
In my mind, COVID-19 has sparked the beginning of a new industrial revolution. Old management styles where presentee-ism was rife and people were sceptical of flexible working have now been consigned to history, and the value of the traditional office is under debate. We could begin to see offices in a new light; as hubs designed to enhance collaboration between people and ignite creativity, rather than the building we are obliged to attend for eight hours every day. To be successful in our new world, we should balance the benefits of working in an office with the benefits of remote working.
For me, whether we are working remotely or in the office, a foundation of trust has to be what connects us all. Empowering people to manage their own time, whilst continuing to contribute to business performance, is going to be at the heart of what helps us grow as a business and continue to be seen as an employer of choice.
The real shift taking place is in attitude, not just behaviour. This will, I am sure, make it more enduring.
All of us have been impacted by Covid-19. Click below to find out what #TogetherTomorrow means for some of our employees...
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