This article first appeared in ESG Clarity, 14th April 2020
In this regular series, female members of the ESG investment industry detail how they are dealing with the transition to remote working during the coronavirus fallout
Following on from our sister title Portfolio Adviser which has been running the Working from Home series with investment experts from the wider industry, we are running these articles twice a week with women in ESG. This week we speak to Bev Shah, CEO of City Hive, the network for change in the investment industry.
How has the coronavirus affected your day-to-day work?
From our inception City Hive was set-up to work virtually without a permanent base. So, we are experts when it comes to working from home with a team that is spread over multiple locations. As long as I have my phone or laptop I can work anywhere and communicate with my team, clients and members. We also have a Go-Slow policy for school holidays which means we can continue to work around our children with the expectation that we will be less productive and prioritise better. In that regard – not a lot has changed.
However, from a practical point of view, I do now have to share office space with my husband who is WFH for the first time in his career. I have chosen to move a comfortable chair in a bay window so I can enjoy some sunshine and a view when I need to take a video calls in quiet. Otherwise I take my laptop to wherever the kids are to make sure I can supply them with their endless demands for snacks and cuddles.
One thing I have noticed is the emotional strain this crisis has put everyone under, and I have made it clear to my team that it is ok not to be as productive. This is not ‘business as usual’ for so many different reasons and there is no point trying to pretend it is.
How do you think attitudes to ESG initiatives will be affected as we move through the crisis?
We are already seeing a link being made between positive returns and firms with good ESG scores. My hope is firms do not side-line diversity as an issue to tackle in bull markets only. It very clearly sits in the ‘G’ and halfway in the ‘S’. How a firm behaves in this time will impact their brand long after this crisis has passed and ironically now more than ever, we need the cognitive diversity a diverse workforce would have brought.
Share some good news you have heard recently about the industry?
I have been really pleased to hear several female fund managers are still on track to launch funds. It may be a difficult time to raise assets at the moment but it’s a good starting point for a track record.
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
Like everyone else I am watching a lot of Netflix. Still trying to get my head round Tiger King! But I am also revisiting past hobbies, which had resulted in a multitude of unopened birthday and Christmas gifts from years gone by.
What is your favourite sustainable snack/hot drink when working from home?
I have a savoury tooth, so crisps are my junk snack of choice usually. Even my kids know Mummy does not share when it comes to crunchy snacks! But I have decided that during this lockdown I will try and refrain from junk food and save up my indulgence for Christmas otherwise I will need to borrow Santa’s trousers to be rolled out of here after the lockdown finishes.
How is home schooling being managed in your household?
Both my husband and I were already in isolation with symptoms of covid-19 when schools shut down so we did not get the home schooling packs until a few weeks later when we had fully recovered and could venture out to pick them up.
This meant we had some time to reflect on what our household pandemic experience would be. We saw from WhatsApp and social media that home schooling was fast becoming a big stress marker for parents. Lots of talk of homemade timetables, a million app and website suggestions and celebrities teaching different subjects at intervals throughout the day. Friends with children at private school are under even more pressure to ensure kids complete work daily.
This is when we made the conscious decision of not home schooling. I want my children to remember this crisis as a time they spent making mud pies and roaming feral in our house. I don’t want them remembering their parents bickering about whose responsibility it is and whose job is more important. We are seeing anecdotally that this is falling on women’s shoulders more than men.
Teaching primary children is a real skill. One I do not have the patience or ability to execute well. So instead of home schooling or doing any of the phonics that we have been set to do. They are reading, playing, cuddling, snacking and screen timing. And their screen time is a lot less than ours. And as a consequence of all this we feel less stressed and are both able to continue working.
Do you have a ‘top green tip’ to share on working remotely?
I am sure we have more appliances plugged in at the moment so remember to turn off switches at the mains. Don’t leave them on standby as they waste electricity.