Almost two years into the pandemic, most Financial Services (FS) leaders are still searching for answers when it comes to the future of work.
While employees have largely remained productive in a remote environment, executives are concerns about burnout and the sustainability of current work practices. The lingering uncertainty of the pandemic has worsened these difficulties. Almost three-quarters of senior FS leaders changed their return-to-office plans due to the surge of COVID-19 cases seen in the summer of 2021. Amidst this confusion, and other trends affecting the industry, leaders need a durable plan for the future of work.
You can’t afford to make the wrong move here. Most FS employees have little appetite to return to the ‘old normal’ – over 60% now agree that a lack of work flexibility would impact whether they stay at their organization.
And by pushing a return to the office, leaders also risk missing opportunities. Beyond the potential for reduced real estate footprints, almost half of FS employees are willing to take a pay cut if they are able to work remotely. Moreover, for firms looking to expand the diversity of their workforce, hiring remotely enables executives to tap into much broader markets of future employees.
Virtualizing the Office Won’t Cut It
With the stakes so high, why are so many FS leaders skeptical about remote and hybrid approaches to work? When you get down to it, what’s really going on here is that most banks have simply virtualized the office.
In particular, leaders have attempted to recapture three of the core elements of office-centric work: the consistency of experiences, the serendipity of informal collaboration, and the visibility of workers.
This approach has led to many counter-productive measures and outcomes. Leaders have added virtual tools, increased online meetings, and tracked employee productivity to try and recreate the office in a remote format. This has fed an ‘always-on’ culture, with negative results.
FS workers and managers feel drained; current working practices are unsustainable. FS Executives need a new approach to work – one that can withstand disruption and maintain productivity without risking employee engagement and retention.
Embrace the Future: Human-Centric Design
While most banks stop at virtualizing the office, the most effective FS leaders will instead implement human-centric work design to meet the future of work.
They will challenge the core elements of the pre-pandemic workplace and build their workplaces around the concepts of radical flexibility, intentional collaboration and empathy-based management. Compared to office-centric design, human-centric design sees a 28% rise in overall employee performance, a 45% increase in employee intent to stay, and a 44% decrease in employee fatigue.
Through adopting such practices, FS leaders can build sustainable, human-centric organizations. These will drive and maintain employee engagement and performance in the hybrid work environments of the future.
To focus on one element of the above, leaders should lean into intentional collaboration to help new employees find mentors and connections. Purely digitizing onboarding, without making up for the absence of in-person social and developmental opportunities, limits its effectiveness. This prevents new hires from effectively integrating into their team and organizational culture. Instead, leading banks will take a more intentional approach. They will adapt onboarding programs to deliberately support new connections with peers and managers in a hybrid environment. Moreover, teams with higher levels of intentional collaboration are much more likely to have high levels of innovation.
Read more about the future of work in financial services in Gartner’s e-book on this topic.