Loud and Clear – May 2020

Toddlers, DIY haircuts, and “watering the plants”… 4 home truths about working from home


It is quiet, in the house. It is 3am. This is (much) earlier than I would normally start work, but (this month, especially), 3am is quite considerably quieter than 3pm. Outside of the occasional bark of a fox and the clinking of milk bottle deliveries, all is still. No sibling vendettas to defuse, no distracted daughters to turn back to their desks and their classwork; no meals to prepare and no washing up.

Depending on where home is and who you share it with, this may be more or less familiar to you. As an extension to our recent survey on work-life balance (in conjunction with eVestment Private Markets), we are running a short survey on work-life collision, a subject in which I consider myself an unfortunate expert.

At the time of writing this note, we have had more than 215 responses to our 3-minute survey (yes, we timed it). I’ll share some of the findings, so far, in just a moment, but I would very much appreciate you quickly clicking the link below to take our quick survey and add your experiences to our study:

Take the survey

When we publish, you’ll be able to read all about how the industry has been affected – at the personal level – and we’ll also share some of our favourite Zoom call mishaps and the odd Teams faux pas.

Whilst we are keeping the survey open for another week, the responses we have already collected are clear on a few matters, four of which I will take you through now:

1. Does not commute

Not having to travel to the office was the most popular choice when respondents were asked to name the key advantages of working from home. Spending hours packed into a train carriage, even with the benefits of modern entertainment technology, is no one’s idea of fun.

We predict a sharp uptick in city centre residential real estate, once COVID is bested: walking to work is the new chauffeur-driven limousine.

Aside from not needing to commute, respondents enjoyed the (typically) more flexible hours and the ability to spend more time with family. Of course, the benefits of spending more time with your family depends quite a lot on your family: 1 in 8 respondents said that working from home had actually had a negative impact on their familial relationships.

2. Can’t live with you, can’t live without you

Given the choice, private markets professionals don’t want to choose. There are aspects of working from home that they vastly prefer to working in the office, but they want to have their cake and eat it, too: well over half of respondents said that they are missing the office. Funnily enough, when asked what they missed most, no one mentioned 3-hour internal meetings or the 300db Monday morning fire alarm test. Rather, they tended to miss their colleagues. How sweet.

If firms want to keep their best people, they need to listen more to what these people actually need, in order to feel good and work at their best. Presenteeism is one of the modern working world’s deadliest sins and needs to be “cancelled”. My daughter says I used that correctly, but she laughed when she said it, so I am not super confident.

3. We’ll meet again, face to face (don’t know when)

So, what does this period of working from home mean for the (please!) approaching return to normality? Well, the responses we have had in, so far, are clear on that. One interesting result, is the expectation that there will be fewer face to face meetings, in the future, but that those that do take place will be newly cherished. Perhaps this will mean a higher bar for calling a meeting and more active engagement in those that do take place. Now that we have been reminded how much our time is worth to us, it may mean that we don’t spend it so frivolously and that we acknowledge and truly appreciate it when someone chooses to spend some of theirs, with us. Well, that’s the hope, anyway. Fewer, more useful meetings is something we can all get behind, I am sure.

On a related note, I wouldn’t be surprised to see conference attendance figures go through the roof, having just recently crashed through the floor.

4. Hand outstretched, head in the sand

We had a couple of questions just specifically for LPs, in the survey. All will be revealed in the full report, but more than half of LPs agree or strongly agree that the way that managers communicate with them during the current pandemic will have a lasting impact on how the LP views them. At times like this, fund managers need to be over-communicating. From an LP’s perspective, no news is bad news: repeated confirmation that all is still well with the portfolio will be reassuring to your investors.

If your communications could do with an upgrade, now is the time to reach out; others are acting now and there is no such thing as a “twenty-sixth mover advantage”.

We have lots of advice on how to communicate during this time (and at other times, for that matter), so drop me a line. We can set up a Zoom call and see where it takes us. It will probably be worth your time, and you might even get to meet my kids.

And if you have more questions, please contact me, using the details below.