The world of work that we had at the end of 2019 is history. The enforced mass adoption of remote working for office-based staff in the finance sector from early 2020 has shown that remote teams are a viable working model. Many businesses in the financial services sector are planning on adopting a hybrid and flexible working model for their staff as restrictions end in the post-pandemic world. This is true for the big players such as Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Citigroup, Lloyds Bank, and JP Morgan, who have all publicly announced plans for hybrid working.
The same will be true for smaller companies working in the financial sector. In order to attract and retain the best staff and increase the geographic area for recruiting the best people, many firms will need to adopt the hybrid working model. Surveys show that people want to have more flexibility in the future. A McKinsey report from April 2021 shows that 52% would like a hybrid approach in the future (with 37% wanting full-time office work and 11% wanting fully remote work). People are different, so having flexible policies will please more and aid retention. But many people say that the last 18 months of having no daily commute has allowed them to time-shift their day and get more done while still having time for family, exercise, and leisure activities.
It’s not all roses in the garden though. Microsoft Teams fatigue is a real thing. And some activities are better in person, which is why many industry commentators think that most people will split their time between the office, their home, and other shared and public working spaces. Hybrid working allows people to work from the most productive place for them each day while also allowing teams to get together in offices or shared spaces when required.
Managers in financial organizations will need to plan how their teams and organizations will function in a hybrid working system and how the company culture will be established and maintained. Below we highlight five questions that financial institutions should ask and address when planning for a hybrid workforce.
Every organization, and indeed every manager, will have a different view on staff productivity. Some managers are used to having everyone in an office space often use attendance as a yardstick for productivity. Obviously, in the hybrid world, this doesn’t make sense (if it ever did!)
Each organization will have a different way in which they measure productivity. The hybrid model doesn’t lend itself well to set hours. Some people may want to time-shift their day and work hours that are different from the usual 9-5. Trusting people will play a big part in the hybrid future. Just because someone isn’t at their desk at a particular time does not mean that they will not deliver the tasks that they have to do that day.
Leaders should set and communicate expectations for staff from a productivity standpoint. It should be measured over a suitable period (per day, per week, per month?), and if there are any issues or drops in output, then changes can be made, or help provided to ensure staff are as productive as expected.
Leaders should also talk to staff and find out what they need to improve their productivity. It might come down to mundane things like folding desks in their homes or better broadband connectivity.
There is no doubt that a move to a hybrid model will be great for some staff and a struggle for others. Providing support for staff to allow them to do their best work where it suits them while also not increasing their anxiety and stress levels will be key.
This will involve measures to ensure that no one feels isolated if they are not often in the office. It will also be important to make sure that a hierarchy of employees does not develop. For example, if the CEO is always working from the office, and there are staff who also work from there, ensure that there isn’t a perception that people in the office get preferential treatment, better benefits, or more recognition. Managers should lead by example in the hybrid model world and also split their working week across the office, home, and other shared spaces where staff are working.
Setting aside time for staff to have informal and social chats that are not about work topics will also be important as a sort of virtual water cooler where people can chat about that film or TV show they saw at the weekend. Let the staff decide how these happen. Not everyone likes video calls, and research shows they can be more tiring than in-person meetings.
It’s also important to have subject matter experts available to answer questions from remote workers if any issues arise. These subject matter experts should be available to contact to help others when needed. But these experts should be focused on this support role for set periods and not be trying to do it in addition to other business tasks that they might be penalized for not completing. Having this help available is especially important for new recruits working remotely early in their role in the company. This also allows people to build up bonds that usually happen in the office.
Communication and easy collaboration will be key to a successful hybrid working approach. Communication in this context covers both the day-to-day activities of staff and the messaging from leadership about what’s happening in the company and the wider marketplace. With a lot of the in-person office talk removed, organizations will need to find effective ways to make sure that all staff are kept up to date. Not everyone will read an email with vital information, so sometimes multiple channels may need to be used to pass on the same message. Team leaders may need to have separate short audio meetings to ensure important messages are passed on (not every meeting needs to be a video chat!). For teamwork, the tools available within Microsoft 365 provide multiple channels for collaboration. We touch on these below.
The bottom line is that leadership teams will need to ensure there is a strategy in place for everyone to communicate and collaborate using the provided tools. And that important interaction doesn’t spill over into shadow IT services like WhatsApp or Apple Messages, where there is a danger of unseen interactions or data loss.
Data security is fundamental to all business operations. Having staff working from multiple locations and accessing possible sensitive data from various places increases the risk of data leakage. At the core of delivering data security in a hybrid working environment is staff awareness training around data protection and cybersecurity. Awareness training on things like ensuring that staff don’t let anyone who doesn’t work for the company see their computer screen when not in the office, and data handling best practices.
Storing data in Cloud services such as Microsoft 365 based systems will go a long way to enabling security. Providing these Microsoft systems have the correct configuration, and that access rights and permissions are appropriate.
We get bombarded with Cloud-based SaaS tool adverts that claim to make specific parts of the business function easier. From project management to workgroup chat and everything in between. Some organizations like to take an à la carte approach and pick a tool from different suppliers to provide each piece of functionality. This makes it harder to link all the applications together, making it harder to create a joined-up and coherent technology platform for the business to use.
At CoreView, we think that the integrated approach provided by the wide range of tools available in Microsoft 365 is a better choice. Within the Microsoft suite, there are tools to deliver the business productivity financial organizations need. Either directly in the Microsoft 365 suite or as additional add-ons for things like project management, data visualization, diagraming, and more.
Financial institutions will need to decide which technology stack will best deliver the platform on which they can build a hybrid working ethos and environment. We think that the Microsoft 365 suite and associated applications are a good choice.
CoreView CoreSuite has all the tools that financial organizations need to configure, monitor, and manage Microsoft 365 deployments securely. Deploying the CoreSuite platform will allow your Microsoft Office based organization to communicate and collaborate securely and effectively.