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How to make flexible working ‘work’for the banking and finance industry

By Marcus Johnson, Operating Director, Michael Page Finance 

There are many misconceptions about the concept of flexible working, particularly within the banking and finance industries. It can often be associated with working mothers, or as a means of reducing the hours in the working week, but this is not the case. In practice, flexible working is a modern and dynamic tool for empowering driven professionals to deliver upon their day-to-day responsibilities whilst managing busy lifestyles. Consequently, many businesses choose to refer to this practice as ‘dynamic working’ for this very reason. When implemented effectively, dynamic working boosts productivity, supports a healthy work-life balance, and contributes towards a high trust, high performance working culture.

This new way of working has emerged as a direct result of the shifting demands of the millennial generation within the workforce. For example, millennials are increasingly prioritising their mental health and how a job impacts this.Companies are now in a position where, in order to remain competitive in the market, they must respond to this shift and ensure their benefits package to potential employees reflects the wants and needs of a modern workforce. A failure to do so will likely result in being seen as out of touch and the best and brightest talent looking elsewhere.

Larger, more digitalised companies are leading the way in this new way of working, as they have

both the capacity and finances to support these setups. We often advise our clients to consider introducing a flexible working policy where possible, to boost their overall recruitment process. Not only in terms of attracting and winning talent but to also help increase retention rates. So how can companies embrace dynamic working?

Why go dynamic?

The demand is there. Research conducted by Michael Page, states that 66% of those working in banking and finance industries would welcome their employer offering flexible working hours. A further noteworthy revelation was that, despite 53% of candidates listing the option to work from home as part of their top three desired benefits, only 26% of those surveyed were actually provided with the option by their employer. This demonstrates the disconnect between what candidates want and what employers are offering.

In an era of low unemployment,the current job market is highly competitive;the best candidates are in short supply so can afford to be more selective when choosing where they want to work. From a hiring perspective, businesses are under more pressure than ever to sell the positive aspects of working for their company. Offering flexible working is one of the best ways for companies working in banking and finance to set themselves apart from the competition.

Overcoming the obstacles

For those businesses new to the idea or considering how such a programme might work, it is crucial to understand the challenges an organisation might face or should expect on this journey. What’s equally important is to find workaround solutions that can be implemented and applied to a business’ unique needs.

Of course, sufficient coverage at key times of the finance month is a top concern. Some firms are worried that if everyone is working from home, shorter hours, or out of the office, the work won’t get done. Similarly, making such a programme work for everyone, and getting the buy-in from more established and experienced members of the team might be a daunting and perhaps seemingly impossible task.

It’s important to remember that dynamic working doesn’t mean fewer working hours. Each business considering implementing dynamic working should ensure it will benefit the productivity of the team. The focus should be on the deliverables, not on the time spent sitting at a desk in the office environment.

When building and determining how a dynamic set up would work it’s important to consider the needs of employees, the preferences of individual clients, the requirements of the industry, office capabilities, and the technology that available. Dynamic working will not suit every member of a team or even every type of role in a company. Employees should be made aware of a formal process for requesting dynamic working arrangements, and we would suggest this includes appropriate sign offs from line managers and guidelines for how to effectively communicate with other team members during this arrangement.

How dynamic working can work in practice

There are a number of things companies can do to ensure any dynamic working policy is implemented efficiently and effectively:

  • Facilitate home access – the ability to work from home or a remote location can significantly improve productivity. Workers in these industries are usually comfortable with reviewing their emails first thing in the morning or responding to queries well after 5:30. In fact, the ability to sign in during a commute can amount to a lot more getting done, well before the rest of the team have even signed in.
  • Establish flexibility champions – these individuals should be from right across the business, to demonstrate how they make it work best for them. This employee may be some one who takes a longer lunch break but comes in an hour early to compensate. Alternatively, it could be a parent who comes in later so they can drop their kids off in the mornings. Some companies have also enabled some of their employees, particularly those who live further distances from the office, to leave early as a means of making an earlier train but encourage them to log back in once they get home.
  • Highlight great performance – this should happen for both employees in the office and those who on occasion work dynamically. However, if there is a noticeable improvement in an individual’s performance after adopting a dynamic working schedule, be sure that it is known across the company.
  • Agree weekly deliverables– regardless of flexibility requirements – work from home, longer lunches, or later start times – every employee needs to know their KPIs and daily responsibilities to ensure they are working effectively. When dynamic working is introduced, this becomes increasingly important to ensure employees know what is expected of them.
  • Consider job sharing – where it is feasible, perhaps two employees would work better on a part-time basis sharing the responsibilities of a single role on a week to week basis? Job sharing is a workable solution if two colleagues or new starters are only able to work restricted hours during the week. The key consideration for this working arrangement is to ensure each employee is effectively communicating with the person they are handing the job over to, this is so they are aligned in the requirements for the following day.

The secret to maintaining the benefits of a dynamic working arrangement is to always ensure it remains versatile rather than becoming regular scheduled time away from the office. This working arrangement should always be adaptable to the ever-changing dynamics of workers’ daily lives and should encourage employees to produce their best work whilst benefiting from flexible working arrangements.