This summer Nicholas Megaw, the retail banking correspondent at The Financial Times, reported on banks across Europe increasing their recruitment of “technology specialists” by tenfold in just three years. Research by the paper and LinkedIn found that financial services are competing with high profile tech brands to attract and retain the same specialists. Highlighting this, Anaplan, a UK cloud business, said their engineering team in London went from five employees to more than 40 in a little over a year, and that many of these new recruits had come directly from Morgan Stanley, UBS and Goldman Sachs.
These technology specialists often fall into the ‘millennial’ age bracket, known to be attracted to firms who promote good work-life balance, with the flexibility to work from different locations, which is easily enabled by video calls and screen sharing. Flexible working and remote work are rapidly forming an essential part of a company’s employee value proposition.
Yet according to research from Deloitte and Timewise of 1,800 UK professionals, the UK’s services industry is lagging in terms of putting flexible working into practice, and ensuring those that do work remotely feel like a valued part of their workforce. Research found 30% of flexible workers felt they were regarded as less important, and 25% said they were given fewer opportunities than colleagues who worked conventional hours. A quarter also believed they had missed out on promotion.
As many banks find the lure of their city offices and long working hours losing appeal amongst millennials, flexible working must be a priority for firms looking to compete for the best talent out there.
Flexible working’s imperative
A recent report from Mercer, ‘Beyond the bonus’, explored how flexible working will be an important part of a new-age employee value proposition to attract millennials, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The report found millennials see themselves as ‘free agents’ and expect to be able to work from anywhere, at any time.
Some banks are already starting to shift their flexible working policies in recognition of this. HSBC found flexible working more likely to motivate employees and increase productivity than pay hikes or bonuses in a recent study of UK businesses. Another financial powerhouse, Lloyds Banking Group, tracks the progress of its flexible working policies. The company records how many formal and informal flexible working requests are made each month and how many are turned down. In 2017, 43% of all UK employees had some form of agile arrangement at the bank, compared with 30% in 2014. The firm can see how the roll out of flexible working is progressing and understand how and why employees are requesting to work from home too. Managers at the bank will be able to effectively facilitate the demand for working more remotely, and in return reap the rewards of a more content, productive workforce.
It's business sense
HSBC’s study found a clear link between employees who can work remotely and better productivity levels. The survey, undertaken by YouGov, found 81% of workers believed that the opportunity to work flexibly would help them to improve their productivity levels. Not only does a shift to a flexible working model lead to a potentially more productive workforce, but it can also save on rent. Lambeth council, for example, says it saves £4.5 million each year as more staff work flexibly meaning it reduced its office footprint and subsequently slashed its rent bill.
Another compelling argument driving business change is the cost of travel. It is an area where video collaboration technologies have traditionally made their case to enable those who want to work remotely – offering generous cost savings for executives who need to travel internationally to see colleagues face-to-face. This argument is resurfacing again as firms look to decrease the need for domestic travel too. The average time for a train journey in London, for example, is 81 minutes and counting. That doesn’t take account of all the train delays recently experienced by commuters to the capital caused by shifts in operator timetables and extreme weather patterns.
Today, it is more understood that employees can be equal contributors to a team anywhere – whether it be on the other side of the world, or just down the road. Why would you enforce a work from office policy and make employees travel to work every day on a hot, packed train or sat in stationary traffic, when working from home, even just two days a week, can have a dramatic impact on morale and productivity.
Equipping the workforce wherever they work
Flexible working is not just an employee benefit, but it benefits the business too. This is something the group Digital Mums has been pushing for a wider understanding of. They want the government’s definition to change from “Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. having a flexible start and finish times, or working from home…” To be changed from solely describing ‘a way of working that suits an employee’s needs’ to ‘work that works for employees and businesses.’
In recognition of mutual benefit, it’s important that we think about equipping employees with the right technologies and applications no matter where they are based. Video easily connects employees to one another and will soften the concerns of more skeptical colleagues when they can clearly see one another and meet “face-to-face” online. For example, Logitech HD Webcams are a quality, easy-to-use peripheral that can be simply plugged into a laptop for an instant video call.
It’s not just collaboration technologies that are being purchased by forward-thinking banks. Moelis, the investment banking boutique firm on Wall Street, is trying to empower those who take to flexible working by offering docking stations for those working at home. Ultimately, companies can’t afford to introduce flexible working benefits without equipping their workers with high-quality hardware and software both at home and in the office. Of course, when working away from the office in any capacity, high-speed internet is essential, but firms should also analyse job roles and the associated tech requirements, so employees can be empowered with the perfect home and office setup. For instance, looking at whether tablets with keyboard cases would be useful for employees working on the go, and providing a high-quality mouse, headset and webcam, and external monitor to enable seamless video calls and spreadsheet work from home or shared work spaces.
The benefits will come
Banks will reap the rewards of flexible working if they enable the policy with high-quality peripherals and an internal comms programme to drive adoption and culture change. It’s not just young, millennial talent that’ll be drawn to tech-enabled flexible working policies. They are also needed to help working parents juggle their careers with childcare and caring for elderly parents, and studies have found that the opportunity to work remotely and flexibly is keeping baby-boomers in the workforce for longer.
Flexible working will allow banks to shake off the corporate image that has burdened them since the financial crisis. With more modern working practices in place the city giants may find themselves back in the game, competing for the best talent.
Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration at Logitech EMEA
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