Embracing hybrid working will be essential to survival, say both employees and business leaders in the financial services and Insurance industry. This is according to research from Fujitsu, which looks at how the world of work has fundamentally shifted. The report, titled ‘No Going Back?’, provides a deep dive into the irreversible work / life shift that has occurred after the coronavirus pandemic forced organisations to reshape their working process.
With their hands forced by COVID-19, over eight in ten of financial services (82%) and insurance (83%) teams have now adopted full-time remote working – though most workplaces accept that this was only a temporary solution and that there is more to be done if it is to be sustained beyond the crisis.
A move to a hybrid working model seems to be the preferred choice among all areas of the organisation. It was also deemed to deliver improved resilience and offered organisations a better chance to survive further disruptive events and economic upheaval; a feeling shared by 89% of business leaders and 77% of employees. What’s more, the overwhelming majority of employees in retail banking (83%) and insurance (84%) were happy with a Hybrid working model where time is split equally between the workplace and working remotely; employees in the manufacturing sector (93%) were the only group to be more positive.
Escaping a burning platform
Although necessitated by a global pandemic, organisations were, for the most part, able to navigate the move to remote working very successfully. When it came to implementing digital tools, there was alignment between employees and business leaders. Nearly half (49%) of business leaders in financial services reported a well or adequate transition, while roughly the same number of employees (48%) believed the same.
Most critically, these changes were made by business leaders in partnership with employees: 55% of employees said they were consulted by their organisation during the rapid transition.
While COVID-19 was a key driver in workplace change, it was not the only factor – in fact, just over two thirds (60%) of business leaders felt it was the number one reason.
This is perhaps why organisations have been able to find a silver lining in the pandemic. Eliminating the commute, for example, has helped accelerate the acceptance of the changes – both business leaders and employees in financial services noted that the time (20%) and cost (15%) of the commute and getting less time to spend with family were the biggest disadvantages of returning to a traditional workplace.
However, there have been several challenges to remote working that businesses will need to get right as workforces return to offices and hybrid working is implemented nationwide: 73% of financial services miss socialising with their colleagues, 86% financial services employees felt that they were not provided with the right equipment to work from home, 59% feel it is now harder collaborating as part of a team and 30% said they struggle to separate work and home time.
Moreover, financial services employees are still happy with the changes brought on by COVID-19 to the workplace and 65% believe their organisation has transformed working processes and are happy with the changes. 55% of employees also feel that any changes made by the organisation, took employees’ preferences into consideration.
Commenting on the findings, Ian Bradbury, CTO, Financial Services at Fujitsu UK & Ireland said, “We have been seeing a subtle transformation in the financial services workforce for a number of years, but undoubtedly, the last 12 months have brought the biggest shift yet. And while the way in which we work has changed, employees now need to be retrained and reskilled for a post-Covid-19 world. Business leaders must take the onus to cultivate a digital-first workforce, where individuals have a broad range of skills and can rapidly evolve and adopt technology to better service their customers’ needs.
“Overnight, employees were unable to go into their offices, from banking and insurance to conveyancing, financial institutes have found themselves in new scenarios where the majority of employees feel they adjusted quickly and efficiently. If anything, it has confirmed to long-standing organisations that technology isn’t to be feared because it can enable resilience and continuity.
“Technology has completely changed the face of financial services in the UK, particularly banking. However, as work-life shifts, it’s imperative that moving forward, organisations are set up to also provide employees with the best technologies to do their jobs. And most importantly, it’s about listening and empowering leaders and people to make the choice that is right for them.”
Finding the hybrid balance
The impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is evident, but challenges remain in ensuring employees are supported.
Many leaders are also worried about how extended time in a remote workplace would impact employees. For example, 60% worried that without face-to-face interaction employees would not feel appreciated in their roles, while 59% were concerned that remote working meant their employees would feel under more scrutiny.
Indeed, mental health and employee wellbeing were critical factors in decision-making for financial services businesses and 87% of leaders deemed employee mental health as a priority.
Considering this, a well-managed hybrid model becomes all the more important. With 37% of leaders saying the changes made to date don’t go far enough, signaling that the hard work starts now for UK organisations to be full fit for hybrid.
And while a ‘hybrid working model’ looks to be the best choice – with 94% of financial services business leaders agreeing that employees would like organisations to adopt a hybrid model – actively understanding what this entails is a challenge. The preference was for ‘part of the week in the workplace (1-2 days), part of the week out of the workplace (3-4 days)’ – 41% of employees selected this as the ideal hybrid format but it was by no means a consensus, and organisations will have to work hard to find a system that suits their organisation, their employee, and their customer needs.