One in four UK employees surveyed at financial services (FS) firms would prefer to work entirely from home in the future, according to new research by Accenture.
With many businesses yet to announce their work from home policies, a survey of over 1,400 UK financial services employees across banking, capital markets and insurance found that 24% of workers would prefer to work entirely from home once a full return to office is possible.
The vast majority (69%) also said that they would prefer to work just two days a week or less in the office. Less than one in 10 (8%) would favour a return to 5 days a week in the office.
A flexible working schedule (i.e. days or hours) was the number one initiative workers wanted from their employers, with 69% saying that this would help them adjust to working life post-pandemic.
However, most (59%) do not know if such initiatives will be offered in their workplace and only 35% are aware of whether their employer will begin offering flexible working.
Overall, the research shows a positive employer/employee relationship within the FS industry. 87% feel that they have the support they need to balance work and other commitments, with one in four (25%) saying that support has increased since March 2020.
In a positive sign of how the pandemic has impacted work culture, 60% also said their employers had become more considerate of employee mental health.
Nevertheless, the desire for a more flexible approach to work moving forward was clear. Over half (57%) agreed that their workplace and role could not return to pre-COVID “normal” and more than a third (39%) would forgo compensation if they could work fully remotely.
Employees felt that working from home had been a positive experience. Over half (57%) said they had been more productive working at home and 71% agreed that losing their daily commute had given them more free time.
Laura O’Sullivan, UK & Ireland Banking Strategy Lead, Accenture, said: “As financial services firms develop their future working from home policies, the findings of this research signal loud and clear that the majority of employees at all levels want the pre-pandemic routine to be a thing of the past.
“With such support for a more flexible approach, the focus needs to move not only to where employees are doing their work, but how they are doing their work. It’s about making employees productive wherever they are. As such, there is a big opportunity to reinvent physical workspaces, complemented by digital environments, to drive more collaboration and support workforce culture post-pandemic. We are only at the start of the changes that will be needed in tooling, leadership behaviours and employee experience to make these new ways of working a long-term solution for thriving teams.
“Done well, flexible working in financial services offers the opportunity to boost diversity, open up new talent pools and in turn, support ‘levelling up’ for the UK to drive our sector forward. This is a great opportunity to reimagine the employee experience.”
The findings do not paint a universally positive picture, though. One in four (27%) felt that additional pressure from COVID-19 had not been taken into consideration by their employer, while the same proportion (26%) felt disconnected or forgotten by their company.
A third (34%) have considered or are considering leaving their current firm, although a third (33%) of these say this would be for another career opportunity, indicating some pent-up employee attrition to come.
One in 10 (13%) have considered leaving or do not intend to return to the FS industry altogether, with stress (25%) and lack of work/life balance (23%) the top two reasons.