As lockdown eases and advisers start returning to their offices, Claire Tyrrell  (Senior reporter for Professional Adviser) speaks to a couple of advice firms about life back at work…

Medical Finance Family managing director, adviser and former medical practitioner Mark Martin brought his 20 staff back to the firm’s offices in central London from June 1.

Dr Martin says the firm, which is part of the Quilter network, tackled several logistical issues in helping their staff return to work, as well as some initial resistance to change after working from home since March.

“The problem was not really opening the office, it was getting everyone to the office in terms of public transport. We have effectively five teams in the office of four people and they all come into the office one day a week so we can socially distance,” he explains.

“There was some fear about coming back into the office but the response has been very positive and people have enjoyed the camaraderie of re-opening the office but in a different way. It helps with post and sending out forms, but all our meetings are held on Microsoft Teams.”

He says while no clients were coming into the office, having the firm’s seven advisers and support staff going into London reinforced that the firm was open for business again.

Dr Martin adds that desks have been rearranged so people do not walk into one another, staff have access to gloves, masks and hand sanitiser and the company covered parking and congestion charges for those driving.

“We wanted to take the first tentative steps back towards normality and wanted to make sure he staff felt we were moving forward as a company, but with their safety in mind,” he says.

“In terms of getting to the office, we’ve let people if they wish drive into Central London and park nearby and we’ve covered the congestion charge and parking. Some people can cycle and walk.”

No pen sharing

Staff at mortgage adviser James Leighton Financial Services have been working from the firm’s Eaton offices from early May, building up gradually to 25 workers out of the staff’s 45 coming into work.

Operations director of the Quilter network firm Sharon Weston explains: “We had a skeleton staff of about six in all of the way through – we’ve got four separate units so we’re able to spread people out,” she says.

“When we were told that it was safer for people to start travelling more, then we brought the admin and support team that look after the mortgage advisers, around the middle of May.”

Eliminating hot-desking, laying tape on the floor to ensure social distancing and installing hand sanitiser stations were among the changes the firm put in place.

“The desks are all further apart now. We don’t have as many people in offices – they’re all spread out, and people aren’t facing each other wherever possible. We don’t have masks or gloves, because there are just so many mixed reviews about it. We do have anti-bacterial gels – people have them on the desk, outside of toilets” Weston says.

“Everybody has their own cloth on their desks, the cleaner comes in every morning and gives it a good cleaning, but people know throughout the day to keep everything clean. Everybody has their own desk and even if they’re off, and it stays empty, because we’re a seven-day operation.”

Weston added that the firm implemented a clear desk policy, so everything can be easily cleaned and nothing shared as well. “So you can’t steal pens or anything anymore,” she quips.

James Leighton furloughed 24 of their staff across all parts of their business during lockdown and all but four of those staff have resumed working now.

The firm’s mortgage advisers will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.

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