Return to Work with Rathbone’s Sophie Lawrence: It has been a great test of collegiality

Sophie Lawrence, senior researcher at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, says there will be less stigma around flexible working going forward

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, we speak to Sophie Lawrence, senior researcher at Rathbone Greenbank Investments.

What have you enjoyed and disliked about remote working? 

Having more flexibility in how I structure my day and being able to focus more on my work without some of the distractions of the office environment. The flexibility has meant I have found it easier to integrate exercise into my day, and can manage my diary more easily to make sure I save chunks of time for projects that need my full attention. On the flipside, as a natural extrovert, I have definitely missed interaction with colleagues and brainstorming things with them in person, as well as lunches together and I have also struggled at times with the blurred line between home and work life. 

Has your employer’s attitude towards remote working changed?

Yes, definitely, and Rathbones has been keen to collate our views and take the best bits of this experience to progress working practices that support work/life balance. I have been very impressed with how Rathbones has supported us with the best technology to work from home. It has been a great test of collegiality and remote working, and has taught everyone that we can still serve clients to the highest standard and be at our most productive.

We are already talking about life post-pandemic, and a lot of people feel supported to work more flexibly. We have all gained an understanding of how to best support each other working in this way too. It has been important that everyone has experienced this. Generally, I think there will be less stigma around people requesting flexible work in the future. We have also realised how productive online meetings can be – from new client pitches, to running online events and team meetings, we have still found we can build a good rapport with people in that format. But a big Zoom meeting can be exhausting! However, it is a more productive use of time as it saves travelling, and is also better for the environment in the long-term.

Are you making plans to return to work in the office?

We are making plans for a return to the office and all of our offices are open for those that need to go in. ​As we have throughout this crisis, we will follow government advice and there will likely be a reassessment in the Autumn. Working from home may well be a more normal and widespread practice going forward. Personally, I would like to maintain a balance between home working and office working in the future.

Which lockdown habits do you think you will be ingrained in your every-day life (daily walk etc)? 

Yoga. I have got into the habit of trying to do at least 20 minutes a day and am finally starting to feel more flexible! Generally, have found it easier to listen to my body more and if I reach a rut at my desk, it’s been easier to take five mins to stretch or go for a short walk. Also, I found I am eating healthier lunches as I have access to fresh food at home. Also trying not to go back to a life where everything has to be busy non-stop, leaving room for spontaneity!

Share some good news you have heard recently about companies’ reactions to Covid-19 crisis? 

As ethical, sustainable and impact investor, we have been closely watching how our portfolio companies have responded to the crisis. We have been impressed with how several of them have gone beyond the call of duty to support their employees and the wider community. Whether that is through diverting resources to produce in-demand items such as face masks, donating money to local community organisations that are part of the response or taking steps to reduce impact on employees – by cutting executive pay

Do you have a ‘top tip’ to share on working remotely?

Try to get out of the house, even if it is just for a 10-minute walk around the block, before sitting down at your desk to work in the morning. In the early days of lockdown, I didn’t do this and found that by late morning I was getting fidgety and feeling a bit caged in. 

The full Return to Work series is below:

Return to Work with Sanlam’s Alice Farrer: ‘If travel is not necessary, why do it?’

Return to work with Hawksmoor’s Bridget Gaskell: WFH stigma has been completely eradicated during lockdown

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’

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...