Why the finance sector needs to embrace flexible working

Sanj Mahal, Founder & CEO of AndCo

The financial sector is well known for its long working hours, often balanced against higher wage and bonus payments.

With employees expected to remain in the office to use specialist platforms and access secure networks in order to handle customer data, companies have been dissuaded from encouraging flexible working in the past. However, with the development of new secure remote technologies and the growing popularity of flexible working, progressive firms are starting to reap the benefits of a new way of working.

Flexible working provides a range of benefits to businesses, including improved work-life balance, enhanced productivity and increased engagement. Finance is a profession that involves irregular working patterns and workloads that rarely fit into a traditional nine to five working day, meaning flexible working could be beneficial for many employees.

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Work-life balance

With workers often being required to work through the night to deal with business across time zones and on a global scale, it’s important for business leaders to look after both the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees. Implementing flexible working practices during the quieter periods of the financial calendar can be a great way to help mitigate stress and promote a healthy work-life balance amongst employees.

The traditional working cultures within the financial industry have also contributed to a culture of ‘presenteeism’, where employees feel obliged to remain in the office outside of the hours they are required to be there for. Flexible working can help to remove the stigma that leads to this, allowing workers to get siloed work completed away from the office and meet personal commitments outside of work. However, to guarantee flexible working is taken up, employees need to ensure flexible working policies are clear, concise and implemented from the top-down. Employees are far more likely to embrace flexible working if they’re supported by those in management positions.

Attracting diverse talent

Without encouraging flexible working options, businesses also risk failing to engage a significant percentage of talent. With Brexit looming and open banking coming into play the financial sector is being faced with a number of new challenges, making talent retention more crucial than ever. The importance of flexible working options is increasingly apparent from a talent attraction perspective, with a recent study finding that 81% of workers in the UK prioritise flexible working options above other benefits when considering a new position.

Consequently, commitment to flexible working policies by firms will help organisations attract a more diverse and talented workforce. Employees with different lifestyles, parental responsibilities or long-term health conditions can struggle to work a traditional office-based job, so in many instances the option to work flexible can make a role significantly more attractive. More diverse workforces also showcase a wider range of skills, knowledge and experience, so that companies gain a workforce that is more flexible, more creative and more likely to remain at the firm.

Enhancing productivity

Workers are often more productive if they have control over they hours they work, particularly if this involves being able to work around a family or a personal commitment. Being outside the confines of the office walls also generates more creative thinking and an enhanced sense of well-being. Many employers, however, are concerned about their workers being unable to find productive environments outside of the office where sensitive customer data can still be handled securely.

However, in response to the rising popularity of flexible working, there are a number of tech-enabled co-working and hot-desking platforms, which offer discreet, flexible, working spaces. These easily accessible options provide locations for employees to work and use secure, hi-speed WiFi closer to home or conveniently near client meeting locations, meaning employees can enjoy a more positive work-life balance, while productivity is increased.

Utilising technology

Another factor which often discourages employers from promoting flexible working is the notion that remaining in frequent contact with workers out of the office will be difficult, and communication with clients may break down. However, technology is being utilised across a wide range of sectors to empower more effective communications with the financial sector being no exception.

Encrypted messaging apps like Whatsapp, for example, mean that communication can be maintained at all times, while secure video conferencing tools help maintain accessibility with both clients and colleagues. As well as these tools, secure web-based file sharing solutions like Dropbox allow users to access and share key documents wherever they are.

Flexible working provides the financial sector with a chance to re-evaluate its working cultures and embrace a positive change to improve workplace inclusivity, motivation and work-life balance for all employees.

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