What does a return to work, post lockdown, look like in Financial Services?

In my role as a financial services specialist recruiter, over the course of the last 18 months I have witnessed transformational changes to working arrangements. What I have noticed in this brave new world is that the only thing that is consistent is that no two arrangements are the same and each are tailored to meet individual and team ways of working. I’ve helped negotiate everything from four days at home and one in the office, to three days in the office and two from home, and even that rarer person who can’t wait to get back into an office to banter with colleagues 5 days a week!

Many companies are continuing to manage their pandemic risks by splitting their workforce into bubbles so that they will always have staff available should an infection occur at work. We are also seeing some companies take the opportunity to reduce their office floorspace and to get rid of desks. Such companies are no longer testing the work-from-home waters, they are committed and making real estate decisions accordingly. Under this model more team members will be hot desking or sharing for the foreseeable future.

Financial services companies proved during 2020 and 2021 that they could maintain productivity and profitability without having their workforces in the office. They say necessity is the mother of all inventions and many paper based processes, inefficient workflows and unnecessary meetings were streamlined onto Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, WebEx, Zoom and electronic workflow systems.

The upside of working from home for employees includes a reduction in time wasted commuting and more flexibility to meet family obligations or to engage in leisure activities.

Financial Services companies are, however, worried about staff retention and are doing what they can to keep staff happy by discussing flexibility and focusing on wellbeing. To make hybrid models work into the future, companies are going to have to focus on communication, leading hybrid teams, and ensuring that staff development opportunities continue to exist. They are also going to have to make sure that they follow best practice when it comes to virtually onboarding new team members.

Onboarding has been a mixed experience according to professionals that we placed in new roles during the pandemic, with some companies excelling at it. These businesses ensured that technology and access to systems was arranged and seamless from day one, and that plenty of support was available for questions. They arranged virtual social occasions so that new starters could meet people and start to feel part of a team. We also found that companies that didn’t do so well with virtual onboarding, sometimes found it hard to keep people past their three-month trial. For example, some new starters hadn’t met anybody and didn’t feel supported at all. Clearly – it’s best to put the time and effort into doing it well to save you the expense of having to recruit again!

Some roles have evolved during this time to be based completely from home. This is especially true for those that are non-client facing. Some people have taken the opportunity to make a tree or sea change and are working for metro clients from the regions. A great example is several credit analyst roles I placed recently – the roles involved reviewing credit applications and liaising with people on the phone. Both tasks are easily done from home. The credit professionals we placed were looking for full time roles that could be done from home and were happy to trade off a small percentage of their market rates to do so. It was a great outcome for client and job seeker.

In our new post pandemic world, financial services recruitment is also evolving. Interviews are now online as standard, often moving to face to face with the company hiring managers when you are down to the final 2-3. My client’s expectations with a face-to-face interview are that a job seeker will be able to follow the relevant company vaccination policy and follow covid-19 office protocols.

I am even finding that companies are offering working from home benefits such as a budget for home office fit-out, or a working from home fortnightly stipend. For some people working from home saves them a fortune in transport costs, lunches, coffees, and corporate attire. It can be a cash positive outcome for both the employer and employee.

A handful of companies are keen to have their teams back where they can see them. To truly entice staff back to the office, businesses are going to have to somehow make coming to the office a more favourable experience than working from home. Regardless of whether a return to the office is for a full-time week or a single day a week in the office, companies are going to have to get the offering right.

These are some of the ways companies are meeting employee expectations:

– Staggering hours to suit individual lifestyles and avoid peak hour.
– Really listening to staff and striving to deliver the office environment and working arrangements that they want.
– Tailoring the employee benefits creatively to meet individual requirements. Some will want an unlimited fruit bowl in the office and a gym membership. Others will want more annual leave and access to wellbeing programs. Some will want discounted loan products and others will want to leave at 3pm to do the school run. There can no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach.
– Companies are surveying and polling staff regularly to ensure they get the mix of working arrangements, benefits and staff confidence and employee health and safety right.
– Businesses are trying to stay flexible to ensure that they can accommodate last minute changes that might impact return to work like new Covid variants and last-minute changes to borders.

I do sympathise with people leaders and HR teams that will have to negotiate a return to the office and working arrangements with individuals and teams for the foreseeable future. This is an enormous task for some large organisations, particularly as it has become clear to me that very few people want the same thing.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the working arrangement revolution – companies have realised that to stop losing their staff they are going to have to do something different, be proactive and really listen to what it is they want.

And if you find that your current employer is not taking this approach –get in touch and I will help you find one that will!

To talk to me about your next financial services role then get in touch with our Sydney based team here. I can help you take the next step in your career with an employer that will value your skills and experience.