NEDs Rethink Webinar Q&A: considerations in a crisis

Just how important is it to get back to the office?

At our recent strategic considerations for NEDs during a crisis webinar, one of the participants asked how important is it to get back to the office and to what extent is lack of face-to-face connection having a commercial impact?

Zoe Bailey, Chief Strategic Officer: It’s an interesting question and I don’t think there is a simple answer. You need to look at it from an individual’s perspective, at a team level and at a business level. All of those play a factor in terms of getting back to the office. It is very much our experience at BDO that we have been concerned with our people’s wellbeing.

One of the comments is that that ultimately it is your people who will drive your business and I couldn’t agree more in terms of making sure your people and their wellbeing is looked after and that’s where it comes down to thinking about the individuals. There will be pockets of people who will have found working from home incredibly difficult due to the environment that they find themselves in if they are working from surrounded by just a few small walls or if they are sharing a small space with lots of different people. Just having the opportunity to get out of that environment and into the office can really be very helpful.

I recently came into the office for a strategy meeting and it was refreshing just to have a different environment to work in and to connect with people as we are all human and connectivity is important. We need to be conscious that there will be some individuals who may be concerned about travelling in that environment. If they have loved ones at home that might be in a vulnerable position and the impact that that may have. We need to respect there will be different approaches to this and at BDO we see that as a huge opportunity.

Under our transformation agenda at BDO, we are looking at agile working. I think longer term there will be a better balance between work and home life. Commercially, I think we need to continue to ask ourselves how is that going to impact some of our clients who are reliant on that footfall to larger cities and the impact that may have on retail clients, restaurants and bars. I know that has been picked up by the government and it will continue to be a difficult one to navigate.

To what extent is lack of face-to-face connection having a commercial impact?

Tim Foster, Partner: There will undoubtedly be an impact of us having to work differently. Interestingly, I feel that we are experiencing more face-to-face connectivity; whilst not physically in the same space, we are doing this even more so virtually. We have become, or have had to become, more accessible to clients, suppliers and stakeholders. In fact, it sometimes feels that we have gone too far the other way. We are ‘expected’ to be on hand more readily.

The limitations of travel and physical access have largely been removed. We are squeezing more into our days which means there is greater potential for overworking given our increased accessibility. That could lead to the need, or expectation, for faster thinking, which could influence our commercial decision-making. The pace of business and decision-making has changed over the last 6 months. Whilst we need to be thinking further ahead, and sooner rather than later, we need to do this properly; so there is a need to make sure we make time for some slower, more deliberate thinking. If done right, and by the right people, this shouldn’t affect our ability to quickly adapt, in fact it should help us remain more agile.


This high-level strategic discussion used ‘Rethink’, BDO’s global framework, which has been designed around the following ‘stages’ to encourage a broader review of original business models and commercial assumptions that can be used to manage business priorities, address issues and leverage thinking:

  1. React - ensure that measures are taken to secure business survival in the short term
  2. Resilience - safeguarding vital elements of a company where necessary throughout the prevailing business environment
  3. Realise - future benefits of sensible business decisions taken calmly and pragmatically

These three stages can be considered separately to help you as a Non-Executive Director to guide management through COVID-19 over the medium to long-term. 

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or if BDO can support your business please get in touch. If you would like to contact our speakers please find their details below.

  • Matthew White - Matthew is BDO’s Senior Partner and Chair of BDO LLP’s Partnership Council
  • Zoe Bailey - Zoe is BDO’s Chief Strategic Officer, a Board Advisor and Strategic Development Specialist
  • Tim Foster - Tim is a Risk Advisory Services Partner, with over 20 years’ track record

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