Fostering trust in the hybrid work model: overcoming challenges and maximizing potential
By David Vander, CEO of LiveTiles and BIAN Board Member
The banking and finance sector has traditionally relied on a centralized office environment for its operations. However, with the mass shift to remote working three years ago and the subsequent rise of hybrid work models, the industry faces unique challenges in establishing trust both among employees working remotely or in a hybrid setup, and clients whose accounts are now being managed remotely.
Since 2020, the world of work has been changing in real-time, and Teleworking has now become an irreversible reality. According to PWC, before the covid pandemic, less than 30 percent of financial services companies had employees working from home 60 percent of the time. This increased to nearly 70 percent by 2022 – with almost double the number of senior leaders dedicated to making remote working a reality.
Yet, despite the commitment to normalising hybrid working, there remains some key challenges faced in the sector that prevent better management of the hybrid workplace. Ultimately, many organizations still don’t have the required digital technologies and tools in place to face the breakdown of culture and collaboration required to attract and retain talent. Often too, relevant flexible workplace policies are not in place to manage employees working remotely and to support the leadership teams intended to supervise, organise and encourage them.
So how can the finance sector better manage a hybrid work environment, and build employee-employer trust within and without this model?
The Trust Conundrum in Banking and Finance
In recent months, we have witnessed companies like Twitter, Starbucks, Salesforce and Disney backpedal on the promise of permanent flexible working plans. Meanwhile, banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley are providing incentives to entice staff into the office more regularly and, most recently, Meta bosses have backtracked on the perceived benefits of remote working, emphasizing the belief that trust is easier to build in person.
This perception, while prevalent, fails to consider the advancements in technology and the evolving nature of work. Remote or hybrid employees who are highly productive may still not be trusted to perform their jobs effectively if they are not physically present in the office. But it is more crucial than businesses might realise to challenge this misconception. A new wave of employees expects a level of flexible working as part of their package and find value in working this way. In fact, according to LiveTiles’ latest study of teleworking professionals, carried out jointly with the OECD, over 80 percent of teleworkers said that they would be prepared to quit their jobs should they no longer be allowed to work remotely.
Consequently, it has become more important than ever to explore strategies that cultivate trust in remote and hybrid work environments.
The Impact of the Cost-of-Living Crisis
The finance sector is not immune to the cost-of-living crisis, which affects both employees and employers. High living expenses in major financial hubs often push employees to relocate to more affordable areas. This geographic dispersion can exacerbate the trust deficit, as employers struggle to assess the commitment and productivity of remote workers.
However, it is essential to note that productivity isn’t – or at least shouldn’t be – in question. According to statistics from industry analysts, remote workers in the banking and finance sector have demonstrated remarkable productivity, debunking any doubts about their ability to perform effectively when not in a physical office environment. For example, 69 percent of executives surveyed by PWC reported that their employees were as productive or more productive than before the crisis drove them to begin working remotely. At the same time, more than 75% of employees said they were at least as productive as they were pre-pandemic.
In these instances, forcing staff into offices to do a job that they may be more productive and content doing from home, feels counterproductive. Hybrid working is in part about having a better balance between life and work and, whether they realise it or not, businesses need to go some way to facilitate that fact or face attrition. This requires business leaders to provide appropriate tooling and technologies and to integrate frameworks around teleworking professionals to get the best out of them.
Managing a Hybrid Workforce in Banking and Finance
Collaborating with industry organizations like the Banking Industry Architecture Network (BIAN) and leveraging its standardized architectural framework can provide a blueprint for building scalable and adaptable banking systems, ensuring compatibility and integration between different technology platforms. However, to build on this and continually address the challenges within a hybrid work model, leaders in the sector need to consider the following strategies:
- Strong Communication Channels: Establishing robust communication channels is essential in fostering trust in the digital workplace. Leverage digital tools to facilitate a more seamless and personalized communication, such as secure modern intranet. Encourage regular check-ins, virtual team meetings, and knowledge-sharing sessions to enhance collaboration and innovation while keeping employees connected to each other as well as the tools and resources they need to do a great job.
- Clear Expectations and Goals: Clearly define expectations and goals for remote and hybrid employees in the banking and finance sector. Ensure that performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are communicated transparently while shifting from outputs to outcomes. This clarity promotes accountability and empowers employees to take ownership of their work.
- Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Recognize the benefits of flexibility in a hybrid work model, such as improved work-life balance, more diverse recruitment opportunities and increased employee satisfaction. Grant employee’s autonomy in managing their schedules and remote work arrangements, while maintaining a focus on delivering high-quality work and meeting organizational objectives.
- Data-Driven Performance Evaluation: Implement data-driven performance evaluation systems to objectively measure and assess employee productivity. Utilize analytics tools to track progress, identify areas of improvement, and provide constructive feedback. This approach enhances transparency and builds trust through an objective performance assessment process.
- Continuous Learning and Development: Invest in training programs tailored to the unique needs of the banking and finance sector’s hybrid workforce. Provide resources and opportunities for skill development, keeping employees updated with industry trends and regulatory changes. By investing in their professional growth, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee success, fostering trust and loyalty.
- Implement teleworking policies: Teleworkers report better work experiences when they are covered by workplace policies, such as the right to disconnect or being consulted on telework. Average levels of satisfaction with one’s job, work-life balance, mental and physical health are all higher among teleworkers covered by such policies. For example, 79% of teleworkers who are consulted about teleworking are satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 62% of those who are not consulted.
- Provide tools and capabilities that ensure employees know they are valued and engaged. They are well communicated to and feel part of something bigger than a transactional work arrangement. That they are productive and can easily access all they need efficiently and effectively. Inspire your employees
Overcoming the Trust Deficit
The lack of trust, rather than productivity challenges, often drives employers to default back to in-office work. However, it is crucial to understand that trust can be established and maintained in hybrid work models. By implementing these key strategies, leaders can address the trust deficit and create an environment that nurtures trust, productivity, and employee wellbeing.
Furthermore, workplace teleworking policies are associated with higher levels of trust between teleworkers and their managers. 89% of teleworkers who are consulted about teleworking report the presence of workplace trust, compared to 59% of those who are not. Similarly, 86% of those who have a right to disconnect report workplace trust, compared to 67% of those not covered.
Evidence suggests that there may be mutually reinforcing relationships between teleworking policies, workplace trust, and remote working take-up. By challenging misconceptions, addressing the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, and implementing effective management strategies, leaders can begin to establish trust among remote and hybrid employees – ensuring the success of the banking and finance sector’s hybrid work model. In the shadow of the recent Silicon Valley Bank collapse and while on the edge of economic uncertainty, embracing these strategies will not only help to drive productivity but also attract and retain top talent in an unpredictable climate.
Global Banking & Finance Review
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