The new normal? CFOs consider the benefits of WFH

Covid-19 is leading to a deepened trust in remote working, with some saying more flexible working conditions are the future.

Working from home isn’t for everyone. But the mandatory measures aimed at containing the spread of covid-19 are causing some CFOs to embrace the benefits that more flexible working conditions can bring.

“I do believe that remote operations will become the norm, and as a result of this, companies will be more open to allowing people to work some days from home,” said Dimitri Korvyakov, CFO of Sandton Capital. “I myself will be advocating to allow some of our people to go and work from home two days a week, and I think that will stay.”

When asked whether he’ll push for remote operations to continue after social distancing measures ease up, James Stevenson, CFO of ABS Capital in Baltimore, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. “Absolutely,” he said. “I think we’re finding that people actually can be very productive working remotely, and we’re able to interact with each other, not unlike being in the office.”

For some, working and managing your employees remotely has always made sense. “I’m a huge proponent of work anywhere in the world, I don’t care,” said Heramb Ramachandran, CFO of CSWR Group. “What I think covid has done is it has forced people to kind of pull their heads out of the sand and really embrace technology that they may have not previously embraced.”

Of course, complications and challenges have arisen with the sudden, profound change in working life. And a firm’s stage of technological development plays a big role in how easy or hard the transition has been. At EQT, partner and co-head of healthcare Eric Liu, told sister publication PE Hub that the firm’s former CEO made a critical (if internally controversial at the time) years-long push into the firm’s technological infrastructure that has made transitioning to current conditions “quite seamless.”

Korvyakov thinks new technologies, or new features to existing ones, will evolve out this crisis, further facilitating the move to a new, more flexible, working dynamic. “I definitely expect that more productivity tools will appear to enable people to work and to communicate with each other,” he said.

Whatever the future holds, the pandemic has made clear that automating many manual processes and strengthening and testing your technological infrastructure is critical. “The big picture takeaway is: automate,” said Ramachandran. “Get all your banking online, get away from paper, do everything you need to migrate to the digital age.”

“If your expense management process is still manual, like our process is, at the firm level, you have to get a signature from the CEO and get your expenses approved,” Ramachandran added. These kinds of basic processes need to be addressed, should future prolonged disruptions occur.

The pandemic is likely to imbue a new sense of urgency to such plans for some firms. One anonymous CFO said the crisis is causing some of his aspirations for tech implementation to be postponed or slowed down. But, he said, “I think that when this settles down in terms of getting really used to what we’re up against, and when we get people into more of a routine, I think that we will push ahead with some of the technology ideas, because, you know, it would help to have some more processes and more systems in place.”