The onset of Covid-19 and extensive lockdown measures turned the workplace as we knew it upside down. Companies were forced to adapt very quickly to large-scale remote working and for more traditional industries, including financial services, that were predominantly office-based, the leap to this new way of working was huge.
IT departments were under massive pressure to quickly improve their employees’ digital resilience and enable them to work remotely, easily and securely. Financial services firms that were previously wary about migrating their IT infrastructure to the public cloud started to re-evaluate the need to embrace agile technology to drive business resiliency longer-term and allow employees to remain connected, collaborate and continue to get things done no matter where they are.
Employees who had previously been office-based struggled at first to get to grips with the new norm of Microsoft Teams and the intersection of their work, personal and family lives.
Fast forward 24 months when we were given the all-clear to restore business as usual. Some firms called their staff back into the office as quickly as possible, while others re-evaluated the role of the office and adapted ways of working to embrace hybrid working models. Although we have now entered a world often referred to as the new normal, companies are regularly reassessing their policies and working out what works best for them, their culture and their bottom line. In addition, we now have the onset of industrial action on the railways which could run on for a long time and the cost of living crisis increasing employees’ costs, not least those who may drive to work.
The Covid experience has left a lasting impression on all of us, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives and financial services is no exception. While employees who were previously office-based struggled to adapt to home working at first, many found a renewed appreciation for home working by the time restrictions were lifted, due to the increased flexibility, wellbeing and work/life balance it offered. According to the Microsoft Work Trend Index Report 2022, hybrid work is already up seven points year-over-year (to 38%) and 53% of people are likely to consider transitioning to hybrid working in the year ahead. There is also continual thinking needed around what could come next to create a forced stay at home, whether it be more industrial action or dare we say it, global pandemic 2.0.
Our discussions with clients have demonstrated that a hybrid environment is not beyond the realms of possibility from a technology standpoint in financial services, as most IT systems can now be accessed remotely or from the office, however, compliance and security remain a big concern. The bigger issue faced by leaders is how to ensure employees continue to acquire the knowledge to help them make the right decisions. Once gained through understanding the company’s culture and purpose, hearing other colleagues’ conversations and casual coffee room chats, the opportunities for these types of interactions and learnings are more limited in a hybrid environment. For companies to be successful in implementing hybrid working, leaders need to consider the impact on their culture as well as their operations taking into account all levels and individuals within the business.
Download the Microsoft Workplace Index Report 2022 to find out how employees are re-evaluating their priorities and how leaders are navigating the uncertainty and responding to the changing dynamics.
Lanware’s Finance Forward 365 service enables secure home working including a fully managed Unified Communications service which combines telephony, video, collaboration and compliance into one platform, enabling financial services firms to embrace the new norm of the virtual office. Contact us to find out more.