The COVID Diaries: syndicate 5

The following interview is with an Australian-based fixed-income syndicate banker. It was conducted on 8 May 2020.

What has your working arrangement been like for the last six weeks and does your business have a timeline for returning to office working?

I am lucky as I can still go to the office when we have deal execution, but otherwise I’m working from home. Not everyone has been fortunate enough to have this variety.

It feels like the timeline for a broader return to the office keeps being pushed out. The expectation at the moment is that we will have around half the office back on the floor in the next three weeks or so, but this is evolving.

Are you looking forward to returning to the office?

I have mixed feelings. I am looking forward to going back to the office and having the face-to-face camaraderie with colleagues. I would like to see more permanent flexible working arrangements, though. Perhaps this experience can give businesses the onus and the confidence to do that, but I am not 100 per cent convinced this will be the case.

Has your view of the crisis and the nature of the challenges it presents changed? It seems Australia has prioritised public health over the economy, at least in the medium term. How are you thinking about that trade off?

It is a struggle and I do not think there is a right answer. Neither governments nor the public have been in this situation before.

I think health needs to come first, but there is a clear cost. If we look at the experience of how various offshore governments have handled the crisis, different approaches seem to yield mixed results. We will only really be able to draw conclusions when looking back on this. It is difficult to say there is a right and wrong approach at the moment.

“Six weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed and thinking the world as we know it was ending. I still have concerns over what is to come but life will continue.”

Are you more or less optimistic about the crisis than you were during the early acceleration period of moving to home working and adding social distancing measures?

I am definitely more optimistic. Six weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed and thinking the world as we know it was ending. I still have concerns over what is to come but life will continue.

Do you think Australia should accelerate the easing of restrictions?

I think we should be lifting restrictions sooner rather than later. It is clear that the virus is well under control here but if we go for eradication we could be waiting a very long time. It is a difficult balance to achieve, though, between opening the economy and allowing people more freedom versus minimising potential further deaths and the spread of the virus.

How do you think things will be different when we get back to normal? What changes can you see to work practices, social changes and the economy?

One thing I hope stays is a general sense of compassion for others. There has been a return of community spirit and people have reverted to old-fashioned fun like playing cards or board games. People generally are appreciating the time they have with those close to them. I expect this could be a longer-lasting fundamental shift.

We have been asking people what they have been reading relating to the crisis but we think everyone has seen enough by this stage. So what are your entertainment recommendations for lockdown?

I have engaged myself with cooking. Spending an hour or two cooking dinner after a long day of work used to feel unnecessary and like the last thing I wanted to do! But spending time cooking now is quite a pleasure.

The additional window of time that you have working from home makes a huge difference in how you can integrate life with work as opposed to fitting life around work. Hopefully this continues once the lockdown is over.

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