Mateo Yang’s weekly routine has been thrown out of kilter by the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Yang (not his real name) works for a large US investment firm in Hong Kong, but his clients live across the border in mainland China.
“My job has been affected a lot, because I’m in China sales. Company policy no longer allows us to travel to China to join any face-to-face client meetings,” says Yang, adding that even if a trip were approved, he’d need to spend 14 days in isolation upon his return. If the travel restrictions continue into the summer, Yang is anxious that client relationships might be affected.
Front-office employees who typically frequently travel to China aren’t the only finance professionals in Hong Kong whose working lives have been disrupted by precautionary measures imposed by banks and the government in response to the coronavirus. Tanner Dyun, an equity analyst at a European bank, says he is taking turns with colleagues to work from home. He describes remote working in his profession as “inconvenient and inefficient”, because the internet is slower than at the office, it’s harder to remedy IT problems, and he only has one screen.
“Working life for research analysts has also been affected because a lot of marketing events planned for February and March have been either cancelled or turned into video conferences,” says Dyun, who like all the finance professionals we spoke with asked us not to use his real name. Fellow sell-side analyst Roman Leong says external meetings with investors are “disrupted heavily and most of them are being changed to conference calls”.
There are, however, more analysts in Dyun’s office than there were earlier this month, because colleagues who returned from the mainland after Chinese New Year have now largely served out their two-week compulsory home-working stints.
Not everyone is complaining about working from home. Jagger Hon, a banker from a US firm, lives an hour away from his office in Central and says he’s been starting work earlier on his home-working days. “The two hours of return commuting time I save offsets the lower speed of my computer. The only things I really miss are the monitors. I have four large screens in the office, and only one small laptop at home,” says Hon (a pseudonym).
While Hon wouldn’t want his current working arrangements to extend past the summer, he says his team is working “quite smoothly” as they rotate between home and office-based days. Colleagues are being more active in the team chatroom. “And if we also need to talk or have a meeting, we just use a webcam or dial into the same line – the old-fashioned way,” he adds.
Like Hon, risk management professional Serenity Sung says she is “taking turns with teammates” to work from home. Having a “good VPN system” is so far enabling her to carry out most of her tasks remotely, says Sung, who works for a Chinese bank. When Sung is in the office administrative staff from her firm take her temperature twice daily. “It’s a smooth procedure, but you do need to allow more time in the day to get it done,” she adds.
Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash
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