Lockdown rules in the UK and Europe have been relaxing in recent weeks and many investment professionals are looking at how their future working lives may look like. Following on from our popular Working from Home series, we ask female members of the ESG community about lockdown habits, the prospect of returning to the office environment and adapted attitudes towards remote working
In this article, speak to Bridget Gaskell, investment assistant in the London office of Hawksmoor Investment Management.
What have you enjoyed and disliked about remote working?
I have really enjoyed having more free hours in the morning and evening. My routine for the past four months has been waking up early, making a coffee and going for a walk while listening to a podcast. Knowing I don’t have to squeeze onto a crowded, sweaty Tube journey puts me in a far better mental state for when I sit down at my desk.
I may not miss the Underground, but I do miss the general City hustle and bustle. I find it keeps me pushing towards my career goals. Motivation can be more of a struggle at home when you’re not surrounded by colleagues who inspire you.
Are you making plans to return to work in the office? What is changing?
Personally, I am planning to work from the office either once a week or every other week for now. There’s no doubt that the IT facilities at work are far superior to my working from home arrangements, but they are not entirely necessary for every aspect of my day to day job. I think the whole working from home (WFH) stigma has been completely eradicated during the lockdown, due to the fact that we’ve managed to maintain ‘business as usual’ throughout. Going forward, I believe employers will be more accepting of flexible WFH hours, even if it’s only one day a week.
Have you thought about changing how you commute? Has your general attitude to travelling to work or for business changed?
Absolutely! I am a little too far from the office to avoid public transport entirely, and there is no way you will see me cycling through central London any time soon. Despite that, I will definitely be changing my commute so that I can walk at least one leg of the journey. Normally, I would take a bus and then jump on the Tube, but now I walk the 15 minutes to the Underground station and get off a stop earlier to avoid busy Victoria.
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Which lockdown habits do you think will be ingrained in your every-day life (daily walk etc)?
My daily morning walk is definitely here to stay. I have found that getting outside in the morning wakes me up, but in a more gentle way, as opposed to losing my balance on the Tube and falling into someone’s armpit! I am lucky to have an incredible viewpoint of London as the halfway point on my morning walk.
If remote working is adopted more permanently, what do you think are the benefits for the wider investment industry?
I think the benefits will be seen in all aspects of the industry: improved mental health for employees, less carbon emissions, less time spent commuting, less traffic, more productive hours in a day. Issues like these are becoming increasingly important for improving overall employee engagement.
Share some good news you have heard recently about companies’ reactions to Covid-19 crisis?
In Hawksmoor’s latest Sustainable World Quarterly update I read about an initiative from campaign group A Plastic Planet to create plastic-free PPE. Although PPE is vital, it results in a huge volume of single-use plastic, so in conjunction with sustainable packaging and design companies they have developed a plastic-free visor made from FSC-certified paper board (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC-certified cellulose from wood pulp (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). The visor is recyclable and compostable, and over a million units a week are now being made in Britain. Plans are also underway to supply charities in East and South Africa and to manufacture in the US.
Do you have a ‘top tip’ to share on working remotely?
My top tip for working remotely would be to try to separate your work life from your personal life. Like me, a lot of people don’t have a room to use as an office and will probably be making do with the kitchen table or a desk in their bedroom, which makes it harder to ‘leave work’ and enjoy some down time. At the end of every day, I make sure my desk is tidy and most importantly, I organise my papers. I remove anything that is clutter or unnecessary, throw away messy notes and make sure everything is in order for when I start the next day. Tidy desk, tidy mind and all that!
Another quick tip is to put a plant on your desk – not only does it help to naturally purify the air in the room, but plants supposedly lower your cortisol levels.
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
My general approach to life is to be environmentally aware, and in my time outside of work I like to do up-cycling projects (the latest being a small herb garden made out of a pallet) and cooking. We get fresh fruit and veg from sustainable food delivery company Oddbox, who rescue food which has been rejected by the supermarkets.
Being in lockdown, I have been planning to start volunteering again. I have done various stints in different countries caring for neglected animals and educating local people on the current climate crisis, so with Covid-19 travel restrictions preventing me going abroad, I want to be more involved with my local community. The conservation of wildlife and the environment is a true passion of mine, so I do like to take the time to stay up to date with the latest developments. My degree covered a lot of the issues that have only become mainstream in the investment management world in the last couple of years, so I am – and have always been – devoted to education and bringing awareness to my friends, family and wider circle. I hope at some point in my career I will be able to make a big impact within the ESG space.
What is your favourite sustainable snack when working?
I live with my sister who is vegan and she likes to make almond milk from scratch. It’s actually quite easy to do and instead of throwing away the leftover almonds, they can be made into energy balls – just add dates and cocoa.
The full Return to Work series is below:
Return to Work with BNY Mellon’s Suzanne Hutchins: ‘It has been stressful but manageable’
Return to Work with CGWM’s Leetal Stark: ‘The City is so quiet’