With the widespread shift to remote working three years ago and the subsequent rise of hybrid work models, the industry faces distinct challenges in establishing trust among employees working remotely or in hybrid settings, as well as with clients whose accounts are now managed remotely.
Since 2020, the world of work has been evolving in real-time, with teleworking becoming an irreversible reality. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 30% of financial services companies had employees working from home 60% of the time. By 2022, this number had nearly doubled to almost 70%, with a substantial increase in senior leaders dedicated to making remote work a reality.
Despite this commitment to normalizing hybrid work, significant challenges persist in the sector. Many organizations lack the necessary digital technologies and tools to address the breakdown of culture and collaboration required to attract and retain talent. Additionally, flexible workplace policies essential for managing remote employees and supporting leadership teams have often not been implemented.
So, how can the finance sector effectively navigate a hybrid work environment and build trust between employees and employers within this model?
The Trust Conundrum in Banking and Finance
Recent months have seen companies like Twitter, Starbucks, Salesforce, and Disney backtrack on permanent flexible working plans. Some banks, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley, have provided incentives to encourage staff to return to the office more frequently. This shift reflects the belief that trust is easier to build in person.
However, this perception, while prevalent, fails to acknowledge technological advancements and the evolving nature of work. Productive remote or hybrid employees may not be fully trusted to perform effectively in the absence of a physical office presence. It is essential to challenge this misconception, as a new generation of employees values flexible working as part of their employment package. In fact, a significant percentage of teleworkers indicated that they would consider leaving their jobs if remote work was no longer allowed.
Consequently, it has become imperative to explore strategies that nurture trust in remote and hybrid work environments.
The Impact of the Cost-of-Living Crisis
The finance sector is not immune to the cost-of-living crisis, affecting both employees and employers. High living expenses in major financial hubs often lead employees to relocate to more affordable areas. This geographical dispersion can exacerbate the trust deficit, as employers grapple with assessing the commitment and productivity of remote workers.
However, it’s crucial to note that productivity should not be in question. Remote workers in the banking and finance sector have demonstrated remarkable productivity, with executives and employees attesting to their effectiveness. For example, 69% of executives reported that their employees were equally or more productive than before the pandemic. Over 75% of employees also affirmed their productivity levels matched or exceeded pre-pandemic standards.
Forcing employees back into offices, when they can be more productive and content working from home, contradicts the essence of hybrid work. It’s about achieving a better work-life balance and facilitating that balance should be a priority for businesses. This requires providing the right tools and technologies to optimize the potential of teleworking professionals.
Managing a Hybrid Workforce in Banking and Finance
Collaborating with industry organizations like the Banking Industry Architecture Network (BIAN) and leveraging standardized architectural frameworks can offer a blueprint for building scalable and adaptable banking systems, ensuring compatibility and integration between different technology platforms. To address the challenges within a hybrid work model, sector leaders should consider the following strategies:
Strong Communication Channels: Establish robust communication channels to foster trust in the digital workplace. Use digital tools to facilitate personalized and seamless communication, including secure modern intranets. Encourage regular check-ins, virtual team meetings, and knowledge-sharing sessions to enhance collaboration and innovation while keeping employees connected to each other and the resources they need.
Clear Expectations and Goals: Define expectations and goals clearly for remote and hybrid employees in the banking and finance sector. Communicate performance metrics and key performance indicators transparently while shifting the focus from outputs to outcomes. This clarity promotes accountability and empowers employees to take ownership of their work.
Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Recognize the advantages of flexibility in a hybrid work model, such as improved work-life balance, broader recruitment opportunities, and increased employee satisfaction. Grant employees autonomy in managing their schedules and remote work arrangements while maintaining a focus on delivering high-quality work and achieving organizational objectives.
Data-Driven Performance Evaluation: Implement data-driven performance evaluation systems to objectively measure and assess employee productivity. Use analytics tools to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and provide constructive feedback. This approach enhances transparency and builds trust through an objective performance assessment process.
Continuous Learning and Development: Invest in training programs tailored to the unique needs of the banking and finance sector’s hybrid workforce. Provide resources and opportunities for skill development, keeping employees updated on industry trends and regulatory changes. By investing in their professional growth, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee success, fostering trust and loyalty.
Implement Teleworking Policies: Teleworkers report better work experiences when covered by workplace policies, such as the right to disconnect or being consulted on telework. Satisfaction with job, work-life balance, and mental and physical health is higher among teleworkers covered by such policies.
The absence of trust, rather than productivity challenges, often drives businesses back to in-office work. However, trust can be cultivated and maintained within hybrid work models. By implementing these strategies, leaders can address the trust deficit and create an environment that nurtures trust, productivity, and employee well-being.