Jackie Buttery: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt this year?

In 2023, it really has felt like the pandemic is finally over and, in my organisation, like in many others, there has been a gradual shift back to more office-based working, which has brought with it many benefits.

As much as I have liked having more scope to work from home, nothing beats mixing socially with others at work and the biggest lesson looking back over this year, is how much I emotionally need that in-person contact and how others report the same. You have a very different conversation when you are physically with someone, and the dynamics of meetings feel different when the majority are in the room. Having a delicate conversation concerning health, for example, is never the easiest on screen, so I will actively prioritise more in-person conversations in the year ahead.

When I look at the benefit provider relationships I have, I am starting to reflect now on whether I should be asking for more meetings to be in person as I look towards 2024. You want your benefit providers to know your organisation well and to go the extra mile for your employees when it comes to service. I believe it is easier to deepen those provider relationships when you invest in an in-person meeting or two. That might mean providers coming to my offices, or me going on an excursion to theirs. How unusual does that sound today, post the pandemic?

Conferences seem to be back up and running and everyone is talking about how great these events are, but in-person account management meetings less so. In some ways, it sounds rather old-school to meet in person, but if benefit initiatives are going to resonate, I think there is a case for seeing your benefit providers as an extension of your own team and if there is an opportunity to meet in person, I think there is value in that.

Jackie Buttery is head of benefits and reward at Travers Smith