Hybrid work is all the rage right now. Literally. Although the exact numbers vary from one study to another, some surveys show that a staggering 83% of workers want to work remotely at least 25% of their time. Even if the percentage of workers who want to alternate between office work and remote work is smaller, the majority still prefer hybrid work. It makes sense: in between full remote and coming to the office every day, hybrid work offers everyone the flexibility they need and makes everyone happier.
As the hybrid work model expands beyond its initial pioneers (mostly in the IT industry) and reaches industries that were once considered to be very traditional from this perspective (such as Healthcare and Education, for example), it only makes sense for Financial Services businesses to align with the trend as well.
Why is that? And what are some of the other very important things you should know about hybrid work in the Financial Services industry?
1. Why Should Financial Institutions Redefine Their Ways of Working?
The first question that pops into mind when talking about hybrid work is probably: why should my financial institution consider hybrid work? And maybe, even more importantly, how do we move past challenges such as customer-facing tasks, cybersecurity, and so on?
While it’s certainly true that the vast majority of financial institutions are profitable and have been so for years, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be doing even better.
There are many reasons why financial institutions should start thinking about implementing hybrid work models. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones:
- Talent acquisition and retention will become even more difficult in the near future. Hybrid work opens the doors to acquiring better talent and, depending on the hybrid work model you choose, it might even help you move past geographical boundaries.
- Furthermore, happy employees are productive employees. It’s been proven time and time again that happy employees lead to better business results. So, if you want your financial institution to be even more successful, making your employees happy should be one of your primary goals.
- Hybrid work enables you to reduce real estate costs and create a smaller ecological footprint. If you allow your employees to work from home even just two days per week, that’s two days less of commuting, which not only reduces your carbon footprint but also helps ease up traffic.
- Last but not least, hybrid work can help you boost creativity and innovation. When people are allowed to work in their preferred environment (be it at home, in a coffee shop, or in the office), they’re more likely to come up with new ideas, new ways of doing things better and in a more organized way.
2. What Is the Right Hybrid Work Model for Financial Services Firms?
One of the most frequent mistakes businesses in all industries make when they look at hybrid work is thinking it's a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.
It isn't. In fact, looking at it as a universal plug-and-play solution defies the very purpose of what hybrid work is at its very core: flexibility.
Each business is free to build the hybrid work model that suits them best, of course. However, experts recommend that Financial Services businesses build a hybrid work model based on five main pillars:
The model should aim to be as inclusive as possible, in order to avoid any potential feelings of alienation or discrimination. Everyone should have the same benefits, particularly when it comes to hybrid work.
The model should offer employees maximum flexibility in terms of when, where, and how they work. Moreover, it should provide them with the tools that help them be as efficient as possible.
The model should support both employees and managers in making the most out of hybrid work. That includes offering training on how to manage a remote team, for example, or providing the right tools to stay connected and productive.
The model should take into account the fact that financial data is often confidential and sensitive. As such, the security of both the data and the people handling it should be a top priority.
This isn't about micromanagement. It is about enabling the IT department of your Financial Services to create a network and infrastructure that can support the changing, dynamic needs of a hybrid work model.
3. What Work Environments Are Preferred by Employees in Financial Services?
When it comes to work environments, Financial Services businesses should aim to help their employees perform better. That's the key: building environments that encourage people to be better every day. A combination of open spaces and individual offices (compliant with health and sanitation regulations), as well as hardware equipment that enables proper communication with remote employees -- they can all contribute to making your work environment more efficient.
Keep in mind, however, that building a productive work environment is not all about the furniture and the devices. Taking into account generational preferences is also very important (for instance, Gen Z, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are more likely to prefer working in an office).
Last, but definitely not least, it is important to note that putting the well-being of your employees at the core of everything you do with your work environment is the single most important driver to success in embracing hybrid work models.
4. How Often Do Financial Services Workers Need to Be In the Office?
Financial Services workers may have a special status in the world of remote and hybrid work, as they frequently find themselves needing to be in office (such as, for example, when they have to meet with certain types of customers, when they have to handle ultra-sensitive information, or when multiple people have to collaborate over several hours).
That doesn't mean a hybrid work model is to be excluded, though. When you determine how much your team needs to be in office and how much time they can work remotely, you have figured out a pattern to embracing hybrid work.
For instance, research from PWC shows that 20% of employees believe that they need to be in office three days a week. However, about 70% of them believe being in office three days a week would help build a distinctive culture at work.
There's no given recipe, though. Every company is different, and the dynamics of your employees may be different too. Run surveys, discuss with your team, experiment, and see what works to find the best option for your specific use case.
5. How to Sustain Company Values and Culture in the Hybrid Work Environment?
Sustaining company values and culture is one of the main concerns Human Resources professionals have in regard to hybrid work environments. It makes a lot of sense: if people are not physically in the office, how can they stay connected to the company's culture?
The key is bifold: communication and reinforcement. Make sure you have a clear way of communicating your company's values to all employees, regardless of location. Additionally, reinforce those values with positive feedback whenever you see employees exhibiting them. That way, you'll make sure everyone is on the same page -- and that your company culture remains strong, even when people are working remotely.
6. How To Maximize Hybrid Workforce Productivity?
If you want to make the most of your hybrid workforce, you need to focus on two things: collaboration and communication.
Make sure your team has all the tools they need to collaborate effectively, whether they are in office or remote. Additionally, invest in good communication infrastructure, so everyone can stay in touch easily -- no matter where they are, people should be able to see each other clearly, hear each other very well, feel included in the conversation, and be able to refer to the documentation that helps them be efficient even when working in async.
7. How to Rethink Office Spaces to Meet the Needs of Hybrid Work?
The office space needs of hybrid work are not that different from the needs of remote work. In both cases, you need to design your space with collaboration and communication in mind.
When it comes to collaboration, you need to make sure there are enough open spaces where people can gather and work together. Additionally, you need to provide adequate equipment for those who need to be in office -- for instance, if you have a team of developers who need to be in office to work on code, they will need access to high-powered computers.
In terms of communication, you need to make sure there is enough space for people to have private conversations, as well as areas where they can gather for group meetings. Additionally, you need to make sure there is good lighting and acoustics, so people can see and hear each other clearly.
Finally, you need to make sure your office space is comfortable and enjoyable to be in. This means investing in furniture that is ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing, as well as making sure the space is clean and organized.
8. How to Manage Compliance and Regulatory Risks in the Hybrid Work Settings?
Compliance and regulatory risks are extremely important to consider in hybrid work settings. After all, if your company is handling sensitive data (and it probably is, given the nature of the Financial Services industry), you need to make sure it is protected -- both physically and digitally.
There are a few things you can do to mitigate compliance and regulatory risks in hybrid work settings:
- First, make sure you have a clear understanding of all the compliance and regulatory requirements that apply to your company. This will help you determine what needs to be in place in order to protect sensitive data.
- Put policies and procedures in place that will help you mitigate risks. For instance, you might want to consider requiring all employees to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication when accessing company systems.
- Make sure you have the right technology in place to protect sensitive data. This might include investing in a robust security system, as well as encrypting all company data.
- Provide training to all employees on compliance and regulatory requirements. This will help everyone be on the same page when it comes to handling sensitive data.
- Finally, make sure you have a plan in place for what to do in the event of a data breach. This will help you minimize the damage and get your company back on track as quickly as possible.
9. How to Keep Up with Customer Needs While Working in a Hybrid Setting?
Most Financial businesses are customer-facing, and this can create additional challenges for hybrid settings. More specifically, some of the main hurdles you might have to consider include the following:
- Ensuring all customer-facing employees have the same level of access to information, regardless of whether they are in office or remote.
- Making sure customer-facing employees have the right tools and infrastructure to do their job effectively, whether they are in office or not.
- Making sure adequate training is available to all customer-facing employees on how to use the company's systems and tools.
- Ensuring customer data is protected, regardless of where it is stored or accessed
- Making sure customer-facing employees are able to maintain the same level of service, regardless of their location.
None of these issues are insurmountable. Here are some of the solutions you can find to make sure customer-facing activities are just as efficient (and customer-oriented) in a hybrid setting as they are in a traditional one:
- Ensure all customer-facing employees have the same level of access to information, regardless of whether they are in office or remote. One way to do this is by using a centralized system that everyone can access, regardless of location. This could be something as simple as a cloud-based storage system like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Make sure customer-facing employees have the right tools and infrastructure to do their job effectively, whether they are in office or not. This might include investing in additional hardware, such as laptops or smartphones, for employees who work remotely. Alternatively, you might want to consider using a remote desktop service that allows employees to access their office computers from anywhere.
- Provide adequate training to all customer-facing employees on how to use the company's systems and tools. This is important regardless of whether employees are in the office or remote. You might want to consider using a mix of in-person and online training, depending on what will work best for your company.
- Reinforce your cybersecurity processes and procedures to make sure all company data (including customer data) is safely collected, managed, handled, and disposed of (when necessary).
- Focus on the well-being of your employees (including the customer-facing ones). This will transpire into how they interact with your business' customers -- and it will create more satisfaction on all ends.
10. What Technology Is Needed for Adopting a Hybrid Work Model in the Financial Sector?
Without a trace of doubt, the right technology can help you build a functioning, efficient, scalable, and future-proof hybrid work model.
Essentially, most of the challenges you would face when adopting a hybrid work model revolve around:
- Documentation and access to documentation.
- Training and access to training.
- Communication and collaboration.
- Customer service.
- Data security.
The good news is that there are now multiple software solutions that can help you overcome all these challenges (and more). Here are some of the most popular ones used by businesses in the financial sector:
- Document management systems: These systems can help you store, organize, and track all your company's documentation.
- Communication tools. From Slack and Microsoft Teams to Zoom and Google Meets, there is a wide variety of instant messaging and video conferencing tools that work very well in hybrid settings.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software: This type of software can help you keep track of your customer interactions and manage your customer data.
- Training management systems: These platforms can help you create, deliver, and track employee training courses (both online and offline).
- Desk and room booking software. If you want to make the most out of your office space, desk and room booking software is essential. Not only will it help you plan and organize your space coherently and in a way that avoids frustration and loss of time, but it will also provide you with analytics to help you become even more efficient at how you manage your real estate and office space.
Can hybrid work models succeed in Financial Services?
The process of moving to a hybrid work model will not be without its challenges, of course. But then again, nothing worthy is ever challenge-free. The advantages of embracing a hybrid work model far outweigh any initial hurdles. Plus, now more than ever, you have all the expertise and tools at your disposal to make hybrid work...work. So there is really nothing you can't overcome in terms of how you embrace hybrid work.