No business is untouched by the effects of the pandemic.
Yet there is evidence to show that those working in financial services have had to experience the largest shift in working arrangements.
As the pandemic took hold, bustling metropolises were deserted in a heartbeat and glass towers were abandoned.
Workers formerly entrenched in long city-bound commutes and conditioned to the buzz of the bustling office space were served a taste of remote working, sometimes from greener, more comfortable locations to which they’d been accustomed.
And there’s evidence to show that this taste developed into a craving for a better work-life balance, less commuting and more opportunity for workplace flexibility.
A survey conducted by KPMG and the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) [October 2020] states that 53% of financial services workers aged 31-45 were most driven to work more flexibly and that 28% of workers under 30 were keen to extend this even further by working from home permanently. While different generations held contrasting views on ways of working, there was a clear preference for at least some flexibility.
But there’s not just the question of geography.
Remote working has required the financial services workforce to improve their technological and digital skillset. Firms have scrambled to accelerate digital provision and cloud enablement along with the training necessary to function in the virtual world.
So if this sector has experienced such a seismic shift, how can it look to attract employees back to the workplace?
Change must be viewed as positive.
Bosses should learn to live with the reality that the traditional needs and expectations of the workplace have changed. Is the office now a shared hub for rotational working? Is it a site of creativity, meetings or customer care?
Savvy business leaders must view this as an opportunity to reinvigorate internal innovation and brand culture.
Above all, responsible leadership teams must consider how social spaces can be safe. New ventilation systems, one-way systems and touch-free appliances are just some of the ways to instil confidence in the workforce.
That said, not everyone will welcome a swift return to the workplace so it’s crucial to show empathy and understanding to everyone’s individual needs.
Treat each employee as an individual and move at their pace. A measured and empathetic work-life balance will result in the happiest and most productive workforce.
The future of big cities has been called into question.
With the lingering concern that they are riskier places to operate, staff confidence has been eroded, which may hinder the return to the workplace.
This is particularly relevant to the 1.1million people working in financial services in the UK; 34% of whom work in London with the rest spread predominantly across major cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol.
As a result, this sector could be among the most reluctant to return.
However, this is an opportunity for businesses to restore confidence by demonstrating measures intended to keep employees and customers safe.
This may mean radically rethinking business models, transforming the layout of workstations or implementing new technologies such as state-of-the-art touch-free systems, which reduce contamination.
Proactive employers need to take ownership of their geographic location and modify the workspace accordingly in order to motivate and retain staff.
No amount of zoom calls can simulate the joy of simple, human interaction.
Whether it’s integrating junior team members into the culture of a business, hosting a monthly team meeting or an informal chat over the watercooler, people crave the need to socialise and collaborate.
This is particularly relevant to those in financial services who often thrive on variety and work across different clients, projects and appointments simultaneously. As a result, workspaces should be calibrated to provide opportunity for interaction, but in a safe and responsible way.
Bosses are reporting wanting less space better used for things like meetings, team-building activities and events.
For businesses hosting internal gatherings or client meetings, being able to provide touch-free refreshments is particularly important.
In response to the pandemic Zip Water have bolstered their range of contactless drinking water systems including the contactless HydroTap Touch Free Wave and HydroChill HC03 chilled water dispenser. Not only do these
drinking water systems look effortlessly cutting-edge but they reduce contamination making staff and visitors feel safe.
This is crucial in order to deftly tread the line between hygiene safety and human integration.
Sustainability is big on the agenda for many leading financial services firms.
Ethical procurement, cutting energy usage or going paperless will make an enormous difference to the environment, as will reducing single-use materials. Start small by incentivising staff to bring in their own reusable bottles for refilling at touch-free water dispensers. Not only does it make a positive impact on the environment but it helps to reduce cross-contamination. Two big plus-points in our post-pandemic world.
It may have been subjected to a global wake-up call, but with careful planning, sophisticated safety measures and a steady approach, the financial services sector will weather the storm.