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John Howard, Head of Enterprise, EMEA

John Howard Logitech for Business
John Howard Logitech for Business

Standard Chartered has been championing its flexible working policy recently, after rolling out extensive new policies across its international markets. The bank is making a concerted effort to ensure employees and prospects know that if you work there, you’ll be able to pursue a fulfilling career and have a good work-life balance. While banks haven’t all been as forthcoming with flexible working policies, the industry is gradually becoming more open with how they are accommodating for a workforce that expects greater flexibility with when and how they work.

In particular, the global competition for graduates has forced the finance industry to be more forward thinking with the types of flexible working policies on offer. The tech industry pays a higher graduate wage than banks in some cases, while also offering more sociable working hours. Whereas the 10-hour day didn’t use to phase top university talent from coming to investment banks in London and New York, today’s grads are now actively looking for employers that offer a better work-life balance and a more flexible working policy. In the war for talent, UBS’s Australian arm has allowed 45 first-year university students to work full time at the bank, giving them enough flexibility to continue their study at the same time.

A recent Gartner report found employees to be more engaged and productive when allowed to work more flexibly.For those working in financial services, there are often extremely long working hours and tight deadlines. For example, when brokers and bankers are working on a merger & acquisition deal,irregular working patterns are often the norm – liaising with international markets across different time zones. Some of that may need to happen from the office, but there’s no reason employees couldn’t handle some of their workload or conference calls scheduled at non-social hours from home.

In order to successfully offer a flexible working policy, ‘digital’ must be at the heart of any transformation. It is critical to enabling a modern work experience, with new technologies in place to equip office and worker alike with the elements needed to bring this hyper-productive, digital world to life. 

The digital office

The traditional image of the office we knew has fast become dated. Add ‘digital’ to the front of the word, and a more modern, progressive space is imagined. In the UK, Barclays has explained the use of ‘desk sensors’ in its offices to help identify how often desk space is being used, with data analysis helping them to quantify whether and how much hot desking would be appropriate, and investigate whether as many large office spaces are even necessary.

Co-working and collaborative spaces are becoming more appealing, with companies like We Work popularising more fashionable open, collaborative office spaces that enable people to work together more effectively. Indeed, large corporates such as KPMG and AXA have started to rent some of these spaces for specific teams.

There are three forces converging to radically shift the office recognised in the city today.

  1. The physical re-architecture

The convergence of the digital and physical worlds is making new experiences possible in the places we work. Frost & Sullivan indicates business professionals spend 60 hours in meetings per month – a whopping 40percent of their working hours. However, just half of this time is productive. It’s no wonder then, combined with a more dynamic, diverse workforce, companies are redesigning offices to include informal meeting rooms where employees can host meetings on-the-fly, or quiet zones more suitable for work that needs single focus and concentration.

  1. Younger generations step up

By 2020, millennials will be 50 percent of the global labour market. This generation, along with Generation Z(those born in the mid-90s and beyond), have been born digital-natives. They expect the working environment to adapt to their preferred communication methods – using the same applications they use in their personal lives – in a work setting.

  1. Adaptive technology 

The rapid deployment of cloud-based applications has enabled new, more effective ways of working. For example, the reduction in cost and increase in quality of high-performance video conferencing technology is having a real impact, making it affordable for financial services to scale collaborative technologies, and ensure that colleagues can still communicate. It’s predicted there are 30 to 40 million huddle rooms worldwide, yet only 3.6 percent of them are enabled with video conferencing technologies. The use of these smaller rooms is set to rise exponentially, and collaboration solutions are being developed specifically to accommodate for these changes to office design. 

These trends are driving change for financial services firms. In a follow up article, I’ll discuss some ideas for how financial services firms can accelerate their workplace transformation to make this “digital office” concept a reality.