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John Howard, Head of Enterprise EMEA, Logitech 

Flexible working practices have been talked about for the past decade, but for many firms and employees, policies are finally becoming a reality. With Brexit on the horizon and open banking coming into play, there will be challenges and opportunities ahead. 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 data revealing 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.

While not all jobs can be done from home, advances in technology have made this more viable than ever before. Video conferencing, real-time shared document editing, and high-speed internet mean that collaboration is no longer confined to just the office. When people utilise flexible working, they accomplish just as much as they would under more traditional practices, if not more.

Below are my top tips to get your employees working flexibly.

Work to remove any stigma surrounding working from home

Removing stigma to working from home is perhaps the most crucial part of establishing more flexible working practices. It is essential that your employees feel comfortable with the idea of working from home. They cannot feel as if they will be punished, held back, or looked down upon for choosing to work from home. This can be done by giving direct encouragement to employees, or even leading by example if possible.

In turn this will help to dissolve any pre-conceptions that may be held that people who work from home aren’t contributing as much as their colleagues in an office. You can use software and collaboration platforms to enable workers to share an up-to-date status of where they are with their projects and what they are working on.

All employees, no matter where they are based, need to be available. It is therefore crucial that employees keep shared calendars updated and clearly indicate when they would be available to receive a video call or attend a video conference.

Keep your employees properly equipped

It is important all your employees feel they have the right tools to do their jobs properly, whether in the office or at home. Your employees can only produce top quality work if they have all the equipment they need to be at their best. For example, an accountant that deals with spreadsheets daily could benefit from a product such as the Logitech MX Master 2S, with sideways scrolling and advanced tracking features, this mouse makes navigating spreadsheets exceptionally easy.

Many of these peripherals are portable, and can be taken home to maximise productivity when you’re in a different location. It may also be critical to ensure employees have high speed internet connections, to increase productivity and maintain stability during video conferences, with similar connectivity infrastructure that a company has. It will also be a benefit in their spare time too!

Make sure your home company allows you to access any of your network remotely. This can be as simple as getting your IT team to authorise access.

Of course, the financial service industry offers a broad spectrum of careers. For those traders who work in the investment bank it maybe that it is more difficult to work from home than peers in the accounting industry or asset management sector, because you need access to different technologies or the Bloomberg computers. However, you can review internal policies by considering a rota, whereby employees are more frequently swapping jobs between time zones, rather than a specific market, for example.

Keep working from home professional

There are many ways of creating a professional environment within the home. First, it is important employees set up a dedicated office space. This includes a tidy desk and a comfortable chair. A divider can be a great way of separating the professional area from the rest of the home, also acting as a good background for a video call. A high-quality webcam is essential for any work from home employee, so they can take part in video conferences when away from the office, whilst still maintaining professional standards. The Logitech BRIO webcam ensures professional standards when it comes to video calls, it can work on 4K Ultra HD, as well as 1080p full HD video calling. This will help to ensure video calls are less frustrating – that you and any documents or data that you are sharing are clearly seen and understood.

For employees who work remotely most of the time, it is still important that they visit the physical workspace on an occasional basis. While video calls help to build rapport better than other forms of digital interactions, it is important they spend quality time in person with their colleagues. Whether you are rolling out flexible working policies for the first time, or you are considering making them looser – it’s important to note that it can be a continual learning process. Ensure that you are asking for constant employee feedback so that workers don’t become frustrated by any new polices. This ensures we continue to share best practice and that your organisation maintains innovative polices that keep flexible working and employee wellbeing top of the agenda.