Flexible working will be a priority for financial services firms in 2018
Flexible working practices have been talked about for the past decade, but for many firms and employees, policies are finally becoming a reality. 2018 is going to be a turbulent year for the financial services industry, with Brexit on the horizon and open banking coming into play. These will be big landmarks, presenting themselves with both challenges and opportunities. With such transformational change ongoing, talent retention will be key for firms. Commitment to flexible working policies will allow companies to save money, garner a more productive workforce and retain the best talent.
Research from Hydrogen and My Family Care found 81% of workers in the UK look for flexible working options before joining a company, far more than any other benefit. In addition to this, 53% said they would rather have flexible working opportunities over a 5% pay rise. There is a strong demand for flexible working in today’s organisations, and there’s an expectation of firms to offer competitive packages.
The financial sector has a reputation for long working hours, offset with higher wage and bonus payments. Employees are also expected to be in the office using trading floor technologies, alongside secure platforms and networks to handle customer data. This has made it more difficult for employees to work flexibly in the past. However, firms are finding ways to accommodate flexible working while still arming all of their workers with the technologies they need. A recent study from Working Families, a work-life balance charity, found that six of the top ten employers for flexible working and work-life balance were financial services firms: American Express, Barclays, Deloitte, EY, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Flexible working’s rationale
There are certainly plenty of incentives to spread more abundant flexible working policies in your organisation next year. The Working Families study shows that the finance industry as a whole tends to lag behind others when it comes to flexible working. Only 17% of finance and accounting professionals in the UK work remotely at least once per week, which is just half the UK average. 35% of finance and accounting professionals asked said they would be uncomfortable even just discussing flexible working with their employer.
This has to change. In fact, research by Roberthalf shows 60% of HR directors have seen an increase in workforce productivity when flexible working policies have been introduced. HSBC recently published datarevealing 89% of UK employees believe flexible working is a key motivator to productivity, compared to just 77% who said financial incentives were key. Organisations must do more to encourage their employees to work from different environments, and likewise workers should consider how and when they are most productive for their different tasks.
Financial services firms must try and phase out the culture of presenteeism. It has been described by academics as the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity and is thought to cost the UK economy twice as much as absenteeism. Flexible working helps to remove the stigma that leads to this. The ability to be flexible means workers will be less stressed if they have commitments before or after work, it can help them to get siloed work done quicker without disturbances, and it also means they are less likely to become ill.
With all the evidence above pointing towards the merits of flexible working, it should come as no surprise that competitive policies will help financial services firms to retain their talent, as well as attract a more diverse workforce. This is true at every level of the recruitment process – from graduates who will actively look for jobs that allow them to have a better work-life balance, to mothers who want to get back into work after maternity care while remaining a big part of their child’s life.
In my next piece I will explore how you can best make flexible working policies work for your organisation and workforce, and some of the technologies that make it happen.