In this series, members of the Cerno team reflect on the crisis and provide detail on their work and domestic lives.
For our next interview, we caught up with Olivia Martin, Client Relationship Manager, to hear how her role has had to adapt to challenges presented by the crisis, and what has kept her busy at home.
Olivia, please tell me about your role and how it has changed since the onset of the crisis?
I work on everything and anything client-related, be that for existing clients or prospective ones. My days are varied, but often involve a number of internal and external calls, pitch creation and management and then more ad-hoc client requests. I also keep up to date with market movements, using the FT and Bloomberg Business News apps and I try to listen to the FT News Briefing most mornings.
Operating more remotely has been a learning curve, particularly as I have had to coach some of our clients into getting comfortable and familiar with Zoom and other video conferencing tools. The biggest change has been not seeing people in person, so a lot of my work has become virtual, via email and the telephone which has its challenges but also allows a lot more flexibility and time for each client. WhatsApp groups have been great for internal quickfire messaging as well as Microsoft Teams calls, but if its anything urgent the best thing is just to pick up your phone and give them a call.
I’ve certainly found that like many others I am more productive working from home, having cut out the commuting time and also find it easier to focus without the distractions of other people around me. My lunchtime dog walks with my two Labradors which get me out in the fields and the fresh air really helps me reset and gives me a good break away from my desk to prepare for the afternoon ahead.
Do you think your expectations around meetings and business travel will have altered permanently from this?
Absolutely, I think we have all realised that so many calls and meetings can be taken virtually so moving forward there will be a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings. Lots of clients have enjoyed not having to drive or train into London for meetings so I think that might continue which is good as it saves everyone time and enables us all to take more meetings in a day and be slightly more productive. I think that transatlantic travel for meetings will practically stop going forward as companies try to save money and people switch to video conferencing.
Have you (re)connected with an old hobby during this time?
Yes, cooking. It’s something I have always loved, but during lockdown I have bought several cookbooks which are a bit more experimental and challenging than what I am used to. I’ve set myself the goal of cooking at least one new recipe both during the week and weekend to mix things up which has been much more fun now you are allowed to see people to cook for! So far so good, I’ve only had a couple of culinary failures – I did in fact manage to be the only person I know to bake a banana bread that was so unpleasant it had to be binned…the root of the problem – I used salt instead of sugar!
I have also loved the ability to learn new skills during lockdown, mostly new sports. I’ve been able to increase my exercise both indoors and outdoors and have loved having the opportunity to cycle in the countryside and work out with my friends on Zoom in the mornings via a digital platform called FIIT. I lived with my boyfriend’s family during the lockdown which meant I got pretty good at pitch and putt round the garden and batting in the cricket net. A new road bike and golf clubs have also managed to make their way into my life, so I try to use the evenings for a golf lesson or cycle.
Whilst during the early lockdown it was tough to differentiate weekends from the working week, I found it was really fun was going on particularly long cycle routes with my boyfriend to visit castles and other scenic spots and taking a picnic with us to make a day of it.
How have you been able to help your local community during this difficult time?
When living with my boyfriend’s family we signed up to the local community help scheme and I did some shopping trips for some elderly locals and I became the village dog walker for several families who were isolating.
What do you think are the longer-term consequences for the UK/Global societies?
I think it has forced companies to adapt and modernise more quickly than they would have and has shown how productive people can be when working from home. People have been able to spend more time with their families and really focus on a life balance of what’s important to them, rather than constantly keeping themselves busy with a hectic London lifestyle. I think being able to work remotely at full capacity is a great bonus for companies who want to give their employees flexibility to work from home and also to reduce overheads. Naturally I think this will have a knock-on impact on the Central London commercial property market as the demand for large office space I think will dramatically decrease. I also think people will be more wary of public transportation and their own hygiene for some time as a result of this pandemic.