The Covid pandemic swept aside many of our notions of normality and stability, as it forced us all into lockdown, glued us to our videoconferencing screens, and caused a number of businesses to either close permanently or survive with significantly higher levels of debt.
But at the same time, Covid wrought changes that put many of us in a fundamentally better place. It taught us that stressful and wasteful travel were not the only ways of doing business. It taught us that with an internet connection, a device, and a lack of typical office interruptions, it was possible to work efficiently from almost anywhere.
And – critically – it taught us that flexibility, productivity, and cost-effectiveness are often one and the same thing. You don’t always need to be in the same four walls, amongst the same few people, working the same eight (and more) hours, to achieve the same (or indeed measurably better) results.
Not that we at EFM needed Covid to convince us of any of this – after all, we’ve been enabling outsourced Financial Directors (FDs) and other Finance professionals to work flexibly and profitably for well over twenty years. But in the wake of Covid’s impact, it’s arguably a better fit now – for those professionals and their clients alike – than ever before.
Wellbeing and work-life balance
Flexible working is now the norm rather than the exception, and one reason for that is that Covid pushed wellbeing, mental health, and the work-life balance right up the professional agenda.
In a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) survey, for example, 75% of UK HR professionals stated that mental health and wellbeing would be the most important areas in which to provide support in 2023. The same organisation also states that increased wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better engagement, reduced sickness, and higher performance.
A healthy work-life balance is key to achieving this sense of wellbeing – but long corporate hours, unpunctuated by time out, are of course no recipe for it.
On the other hand, flexible hours spent working on an assortment of interesting projects and challenges with clients you have chosen yourself represents a completely different wellbeing ballgame.
It delivers profitable work but leaves you free to take that long lunch with a friend, catch that football match, take a mid-week break, volunteer for a local cause, or whatever else nourishes your sense of humanity.
Equally, the freedom to work how and where you like – from home, from a hot desk in a shared workspace, from a rented office, from the local coffee shop – can be a refreshing opportunity to meet new people, chat, and network.
Indeed, when it comes to your working surroundings, as the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest – and rest is as important an element of wellbeing as any other.
One of the pandemic’s most regrettable impacts, in many ways, has been the acceleration of early retirement.
Covid, and the homeworking regime it imposed, made us all realise things could be done differently, and encouraged a lot of experienced people to choose early retirement over going back to the way things were done before.
Of course, this has spooked the Government, spawning plans to lure early retirees back into work, but for Finance professionals far better options exist than either retirement or a return to full-time employment.
A quick look at any number of our Associates’ stories will confirm this. Take Lisa, for example, a seasoned FD now delivering her expertise on a part-time, outsourced basis to clients she herself has chosen to work with, for the hours she wants to work, through EFM.
Take Julian, with over 20 years’ experience leading Finance across multiple sectors, who now helps selected clients obtain as little or as much Finance consultancy as they need, without all the travel he used to have to do, through EFM.
Or take Tim, a Board-level Finance specialist with over two decades’ worth of experience, now a part-time FD who businesses can call on whenever they need him, through EFM.
There’s a common thread, here – and it doesn’t involve taking an early pension or stopping work completely.
The market’s changing expectations
Of course, it’s not just Covid that has influenced the way organisations are now expected to do business.
In economically challenging times, with volatile interest rates, simmering inflation, and spiralling energy costs, smaller businesses are less likely than ever to be able to engage a full-time FD on a full-time salary.
But the positive legacy Covid has left behind in terms of openness to new ways of working and new types of worker, has arguably led these cost-conscious businesses to ask questions about why they need a person at a desk eight hours a day when they only need access to their expertise for a few hours or days a month.
And for a Finance professional looking for a more flexible career or an alternative option to ‘full’ early retirement, that’s a question EFM puts them in prime position to turn to their advantage.
For more information on how EFM can help you, contact us.