President’s Message - September 2021

The start of September usually sees my social media feeds full of photos of children, often dressed smartly in a brand new, slightly-too-large uniform, standing proudly outside their front door as they start their new school year. This time, however, if feels like I should be getting someone to take a picture of me, back in my work clothes and heading to the office for in-person meetings!

I am not alone. After 18 months of working from home, companies are beckoning people back to the office, either through incentives or threats, while other firms have bitten the bullet and overhauled work practices that remained largely unaltered despite the technological advances of the last ~30 years.

And although employees and employers alike should focus on what’s right for them – and not what is just ‘easy’, as that is never the best solution – we should recognise that, for many, the commute to/from the office every day does not help them balance work life with other commitments. Forcing a reversal doesn’t just serve to create issues that may lead to dissatisfaction, dissent and even resignations (and not just among women) – there is increasing evidence that productivity also suffers.

We will continue to keep a watch as developments and opinions progress, but it did bring to mind the comment by Andy Haldane, the former Bank of England’s Chief Economist and now the Royal Society of Arts’ Chief Executive, at our March Awards for Achievement and worth resharing. “Prior to the pandemic, working flexibly was the exception rather than the rule. Now, we have the chance to purge the perils of presenteeism. While the degree of flexibility is a balance that organisations and individuals will have to calibrate, we have an opportunity to progress the conversation about a new social contract and support the careers of those hindered by opinions rather than technology.

It’s a quote that leads me nicely on to our next celebration on 14 October. As many of you may know, the March 2021 awards were originally set for June 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic. And although we were keen to resuming the original schedule and stage our 24th Awards in 2021, the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic posed too many challenges for our volunteers and partners. These led us to agree the next awards would be in 2022, with nominations opening in November 2021. The 14 October also gives us the opportunity to thank all of our institutional members for their support, with each choosing a member of staff they feel has gone above and beyond that we can recognise. More details will be published soon, but please bookmark 12 noon to 2pm on 14 October in your diaries now for a digital event we hope will showcase the very best WIBF has to offer.

Watch this space!

Anna Lane

WIBF President and CEO

P.S. For those that missed my August update and are keen to get involved in the Bank of England, PRA and FCA discussion paper, please click here. We’d be delighted if even more people were involved.