Thriving in an unbalanced year

Long defined by main-street addresses, modular workstations, glassed-in conference rooms and in-person meetings, many corporate workplaces – including ours – experienced a seismic shift in the last twelve months, as employees moved into homeworking situations that have now, at least for some, become the “new normal.”

We spoke with Duray Taylor, a Managing Director and branch manager in Global Wealth Management, about his evolving workplace and maintaining balance in an atypical year. Starting as a complex compliance officer nearly 10 years ago, Duray held management roles in Minnesota and Illinois before transferring back to his native New Jersey as a branch manager in the greater New York City area. He’s a passionate advocate for his advisors, his market, and the firm’s culture. As co-chair of the MOSAIC Americas employees network, he also works to enhance the career experiences of employees from diverse ethnicities and to shape a more inclusive organization.

Your workplace – what changes have you seen in the past year?

My branch office in northern New Jersey employs about 90 people. On-site work and in-person collaboration were standard for us until March 2020, when we essentially closed the branch and opened 90 remote workplaces. Remarkably, there was no drop in productivity, and, in fact, a number of financial advisors in my branch had record years. The pandemic pushed us to become more agile, digital and efficient. And, as we continue to adapt, I see us becoming even more comfortable with a hybrid workplace model.

How did these changes affect your teams and your client relationships?

I saw two interesting trends. Regarding their needs, my colleagues thankfully continued to speak up, but I quickly learned I needed to ensure every person on the team was coping well and had the resources to be successful working from home. We also had to decouple “face time” and “effectiveness,” because it turned out that our employees were just as efficient, and sometimes even more so, at home than they were in a purely in-office environment. Regarding client relationships, I think advisors have had to adapt (and will continue to do so) as our clients increasingly embrace technology and take ownership of their financial well-being due to the ongoing pandemic. In this respect, COVID has compelled us to innovate.

I saw two interesting trends. Regarding their needs, my colleagues thankfully continued to speak up, but I quickly learned I needed to ensure every person on the team was coping well and had the resources to be successful working from home.

The pandemic pushed us to become more agile, digital and efficient. And, as we continue to adapt, I see us becoming even more comfortable with a hybrid workplace model.

Collaborative workplaces are a hallmark of our success. Did 2020 upend everything?

Not at all. How we work together has just evolved along with our workplaces. For example, much of our pre-pandemic collaboration was conducted in person; a remote-working model requires intentionality. Collaborating online is largely unchanged, but our team check-ins now encompass business, family, work–life balance and personal well-being. Additionally, prior to the pandemic, I could leave personal matters at the office door. In a home-working environment, I’ve essentially been invited into my employees’ personal lives (and they into mine). Remarkably, collaboration within and among my teams has increased in the last year, along with productivity and client service, partially because I’m more in tune with my employees as individuals.

Did social challenges like the ongoing racial tension in the US have an effect on your workplace?

Yes, and some of those effects were generally positive. In the past few months, I’ve had many meaningful conversations on formerly “taboo” subjects like racism. The need for change was thrust upon us in the US, but events here sparked developments across the firm. For example, engagement with our multicultural employee networks in the US, UK and Switzerland has skyrocketed, and most of my black colleagues and I have had numerous opportunities to advise, educate and even console colleagues. Our challenges are daunting, but I’m seeing a movement as opposed to a moment, and that’s encouraging.

How did you maintain your own balance in such a turbulent year?

UBS has done a good job, I think, of offering various tools, resources and online learning opportunities to help us cope with the stresses we experienced in 2020. I’m a particularly big fan of meditation as a way to decompress and unwind after a challenging day at work, and I’ve recently been using a popular mindfulness app that the firm made available to all employees globally. It really helps me refocus, re-center and maintain a sense of balance in my life.

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