As working from home begins to feel increasingly ‘normal’ for many, ESG Clarity continues its series of interviews with investment professionals, looking at how the global pandemic has changed our working lives.
In our popular Working from Home series, we ask female members of the ESG community about their experiences and whether they are now ready to return back to the office.
In the latest instalment, we speak to Yasmine Svan, senior sustainability analyst at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM).
What have you enjoyed and disliked about remote working?
It’s been great to have more time to fit in exercise – at 6.30pm I change into my running shoes and just step outside the door. The downside is that it’s much more difficult to switch off – it’s more like living at work than working from home. I might go for a run, but nine out of 10 times I’m right back in front of my computer once I come back, working later hours than I perhaps normally would.
Are you making plans to return to work in the office? What is changing?
Yes, I am planning to go back into the office a few days per week from September. We will be a much smaller group in the office to maintain a safe environment and social distancing, and will still need to use Teams and other tools to collaborate across the business and interact with companies, policy makers and sustainability stakeholders internationally. But I look forward to having the change of scenery, seeing some of my colleagues in person and being able to get a nice cappuccino again rather than the instant coffee I am embarrassed to say I have at home!
Have you thought about changing how you commute? Has your general attitude to travelling to work or for business changed?
The first week of lockdown I bought a bike, my first ever in London. I had been too scared to try cycling to work before because of the traffic, but now I am really looking forward to commuting via bike and starting and ending the day with some exercise. I think the pandemic has really highlighted a) the fact that a lot of business travel, which has a significant environmental footprint, is simply unnecessary and b) having the time to take care of both our physical and mental wellbeing is incredibly important.
Which lockdown habits do you think will be ingrained in your every-day life (daily walk etc)?
Taking an actual lunch break! I now step away from my computer, cook a proper meal while listening to a podcast – instead of scarfing down a takeaway salad in front of my desk while answering emails.
If remote working is adopted more permanently, what do you think are the benefits for the wider investment industry?
If we manage to get around the challenge of it being difficult to switch off, I do think remote working offers an opportunity to better balance work with child care and family life as time commuting is cut out, which in big cities like London of course often can be two hours per day. Once schools and child care are operating as usual again, working from home might make more women feel like balancing a finance career with a family is more achievable, something which is critical if the investment industry is to tackle the gender pay gap.
Our day to day has changed and engaging with companies across different sectors has been more challenging, but it has also opened up new ways of working for our Investment Stewardship team. Since we are now all remote, it breaks down the geographical barriers even further and I think we are able to collaborate more effectively with stakeholders around the globe. We have even managed to play our part in holding the Brazilian government to account and commit to reducing levels of deforestation, all done remotely.
Share some good news you have heard recently about companies’ reactions to Covid-19 crisis?
Covid-19 has very much highlighted the destructive impact of natural catastrophes and their significant economic costs. The lockdowns imposed on much of the world, which ground economic activity essentially to a complete halt, have also made the wide-ranging changes and policy interventions that would be required to meet the Paris Climate Accord seem entirely feasible in comparison.
I think all of this has ensured that climate change remains very much at the top of company agendas, even in the midst of the pandemic. For example, we’ve recently saw BHP announce an exit from thermal coal, while O&G major Total announced a target to reach net-zero emissions in Europe, including from its sold products, by 2050.
Do you have a ‘top tip’ to share on working remotely?
Get dressed up! I never work in sweatpants or leggings, I always put on more or less the same clothes as I would wear in the office. I feel like this helps put me into a “work” mindset even though I am at home.
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
I’ve been catching up on a lot of reading, or I take a moment to FaceTime my family back home in Sweden. I’ve just finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo which I can highly recommend if anyone’s managed to miss it.
What is your favourite sustainable snack when working?
The Turkish shop around the corner sells amazing babaganoush which I’ll have with some crackers – the few times that I manage to actually stay away from the biscuits and chocolate…