By Ian Beattie

WE are now far enough into 2020 to know that the impact of Coronavirus is not temporary. There is a fairly long list of permanent changes enforced by the pandemic. Many are inevitably negative, but it is important to extract the silver lining from the cloud and understand which changes are positive ones.

Perhaps most obviously, the coronavirus has changed the way we work. As Chief Operating Officer of Lindsays I play a role in setting its ethos. There has never been a more important time to get that right; with less face-to-face interaction, staff need good employers to protect and preserve not just their performance, but their mental health.

With that in mind, I reflect on how pleased I am that I have a background in what I see as the three legs of the stool when it comes to happiness in the workplace – physical health, mental health and professional productivity.

Earlier this month, I was awarded an MBE for services to athletics. I love athletics – competing, coaching and administering – and it’s an incredible honour for me. But the most important aspect of athletics is its breadth. Elite athletes are the tip, but the iceberg is wide and deep, and the benefits of physical fitness are ubiquitous.

I’ve worked hard to bring athletics to Lindsays. We have regular running clubs at lunch-time and after work, where staff of all levels, from all teams, come together to release, relax and recharge. It works for us as a firm. It improves our physical health; that’s the visible benefit. But it improves our mental health too, which is the invisible benefit. Until recently I was on the board of SAMH, and I’m acutely aware of the mental hurdles which can impede an employee’s performance.

Ultimately, I see professional services – whether it be accountancy, in which I qualified and spent the earlier part of my career, or law, in which I find myself now – as an exercise in maximising productivity.

Professional services in Edinburgh have often been seen as workplaces where presenteeism is king. Where the longer the work, the further you go. I just don’t see the point in this, and indeed I think this ethos runs directly contrary to what I see as the perfect balance – physical health balanced with mental health equals maximum productivity.

Sometimes lawyers need to work late. That’s part of making sure clients get what they need. But the last thing I want is to see people sitting at their desk at night just to show face. I’d rather they were with their families. Enjoying a meal. Watching a movie. Doing a workout.

It’s that perfect balance which we’re always trying to achieve. It helps us attract new staff. It helps us attract smaller firms – we’ve integrated several mergers over recent years. And it’s built to last.

Coronavirus has changed the workplace forever. It has changed employees’ expectations and drivers forever. And the firms which maintain a happy, healthy productive workforce into the future will be the ones which seek to achieve that perfect balance.

I have a few hats. I’ve enjoyed wearing them all. But I’m particularly enjoying working at bringing them all together, and nurturing people, whether at Lindsays or Scottish Athletics, to be the best they can be in this strangest of times.

Ian Beattie, Chief Operating Officer of Lindsays and Chairman of Scottish Athletics, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List