With lockdown easing, a return to the office is imminent. Although the timings and logistical challenges of this transition period will most likely be dealt with by Management, it is imperative for Chief Auditors to ensure they keep abreast of the changes. How will it affect their team? How will it affect the risk environment more broadly?
Having said that, Internal Audit are perhaps fortunate in that their productivity and effectiveness will be less affected by working remotely than other departments. Based on numerous discussions with the Head of Audit community, a key concern is ensuring that WFH can work longer term.
If we are considering making working from home more commonplace and not an extraordinary measure, we need to ensure it works for our employees. This is where mental health plays an extremely important part.
There are several challenges when working from home:
Here there are some ways you can help your team to overcome these issues.
I know, many people hate switching on the camera, but doing so could help prevent that dangerous feeling of isolation and the associated mental health risks. One-to-one calls will ensure your employees feel cared about, which in turn will foster an environment where people feel more comfortable talking about personal struggles.
Having a space dedicated exclusively to work helps us to mentally disconnect when the working day is finished. But everyone’s situation varies. Whereas one individual may already possess a fully functional home study, another may be attempting to set something up in their living room, bedroom or kitchen. Please be sensitive to this fact.
Providing suitable phones and computers, tech training, ergonomic furniture will go a long way in helping to ensure everyone is working comfortably and safely. If the correct tools for the job are not provided, productivity will inevitably suffer.
When we work from home there is a tendency to work longer hours, mainly due to the lack of commute. The usual cues, such as team members leaving the office for lunch or home are also non-existent. Structuring one’s day without any such cues can be difficult.
Propose working hour guidelines. Propose virtual socialising to break up the day. Lead by example.
And a final note on how recruitment is being affected by WFH. COVID-19 has undoubtedly created many issues for those wishing to recruit. Will the extra headcount still be needed, or even feasible financially? If so, how will the recruitment process work logistically? Depending on which of those two questions you are asking yourself, I see two different solutions.
Will the extra headcount still be needed?
If the intended hire was not deemed critical before COVID-19, and your company’s profitability has been damaged as a result of the virus, it may be wise to hold off. Prospective team members need certainty when contemplating moving jobs. There are no winners if offers have to be pulled after lengthy interview processes. A company’s and hiring manager’s reputation could be sorely damaged. And that can be very difficult to repair.
If you decide to stop the hiring process, ensure that this decision is clearly and empathetically communicated to your recruiters. Depending on the stage of the hiring process, hundreds of hours may have been expended on the search, and hundreds of individuals may have been approached on your behalf. If communication is handled poorly, there will be many disgruntled individuals.
How will it work logistically?
If your hire is still critically important and you wish to continue the search, don’t delay in approaching potential candidates. And if you were in the middle of a recruitment process when lockdown struck, keep the process moving for your preferred candidates. Due to the fact that there are considerably fewer roles in the market, and most individuals are currently working from home, there has rarely been a better time to headhunt. If COVID-19 may mean a delayed start date, communicate this to your recruiters, but don’t stop talent pooling. Most permanent hires within the Internal Audit sector will take anything between 2 to 6 months from the point at which you engage your recruiters to the successful applicant starting with you. If you need to recruit, inaction will completely remove your competitive edge, heavily delay start dates, and result in previously interviewed individuals losing patience, interest and goodwill.
And finally, due to the importance of soft skills for the effective Internal Auditor, I would suggest that a face-to-face interview is still a necessity. Initial interviews can be done via video conference, but ensure you are communicating clearly that the last stage will be in person, socially distanced, and likely delayed.
VP Deutsche Bank
AVP Morgan Stanley
AVP Goldman Sachs
AVP Deutsche Bank
Senior Manager Mazars