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Finance Sector May Lead the Way in Shaping the New Normal for Employees

Finance Sector May Lead the Way in Shaping the New Normal for Employees
21 July 2020 | Updated 28 July 2020
 

After the CEO of Barclays said the firm would look at a more “de-centralised approach to staff working”, the finance sector and beyond looks likely to follow.

“The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” Jes Staley told reporters after Barclays reported a fall in their 2020 first-quarter profits. 

In an industry where much of the workforce has traditionally been tied to the vast financial districts of cities, many have been successfully deployed remotely. But what are the implications of this for employees who might be more accustomed to luxury offices than home working? And what can the reaction of banks such as Barclays teach us about what the “new normal” might mean for other businesses?

 

“Whilst affecting all aspects of business, travel, social and personal life/leisure, the responses and performances of financial institutions are essential in shaping what that new world might look like in the medium and indeed long term.”

–Geoff Prudence

Chair, CIBSE FM and ThisWeekinFM Editorial Advisory Board

 

From Lunch Buffets to Ergonomic Chairs

 

Barclays’ Canary Wharf headquarters is described as “a unique destination that’s bursting with opportunities” by the firm itself, centred in the heart of London’s financial district. As expected of such a building, the facilities are numerous, with walkways to the underground and Canary Wharf Shopping Centre. There is also a health and fitness centre, a 365-seat restaurant and training facilities. 

With access to such facilities curbed by England’s lockdown, the move to home working means that an employee’s benefits package is necessarily reduced. 

The Chief Operating Officer at Happy or Not, an organisation that helps to measure and improve employee satisfaction using effective feedback smileys, told us that active listening, testing and measuring is essential in maintaining engagement when physical perks are lost.

Sami Hero commented that views and perceptions relating to job satisfaction have significantly changed. What once may have influenced an employee’s workplace happiness, now may not even register as a perk or benefit. 

 

“Fancy meeting rooms and lunch buffets are less likely to be as meaningful as an ergonomic chair and a stable internet connection.”

Sami Hero

Chief Operating Officer, Happy or Not

 

He explained: “Fancy meeting rooms and lunch buffets are less likely to be as meaningful as an ergonomic chair and a stable internet connection.”

"With this ‘new normal’ comes new expectations. It is now more important than ever for employers to test and measure what their workforce really needs to ensure great employee experience regardless of their work location, either that is remote or office-based.  

"As there is a trend for businesses to downsize their office space and optimise perks, it’s critical to demonstrate active listening to employees. However, just asking feedback on how they experience their new normal is not enough. Instead, management needs to actively communicate with their workforce their learnings, how they are putting them into practice, and in what ways they’re validating the impact of their actions.”

 

Connectivity and Flexibility to be Key Drivers 

 

Richard Morris, Director at technologywithin, an IT services provider in the flexible workspace and commercial real estate sectors, agrees that systems that integrate with home networks will become important drivers of employee satisfaction.

 

“Far from doing away with the office completely, the financial services industry needs to provide access to technology-enabled, flexible regional office space to power their teams through COVID-19 and beyond.” 

– Richard Morris

Director, technologywithin

 

Morris commented: “To deliver on a newly decentralised approach to working, our office spaces themselves must evolve. The workplace as we once knew it will have to adapt to become a digital hub powering productivity, connectivity and supporting regulatory compliance for a more footloose workforce. 

“Put simply, there is an obvious need to combine the flexibility and convenience of working from or near home with the technology infrastructure offered by office space. This has major implications for the long-term productivity of the British workforce. In fact, up to 72 minutes per day can be lost due to outdated tech and poor connectivity. 

“So, as businesses adapt to this ‘hub and spoke’ model, the office will have to deliver access to cloud-based systems, remote telephony services and virtual conferencing capabilities. New systems must integrate with home networks from voice capture technology to expanded surveillance systems to ensure that typical regulatory obligations can be met. These are just some of the requirements of the new office – the digital nucleus at the heart of the workforce.

“Far from doing away with the office completely, the financial services industry needs to provide access to technology-enabled, flexible regional office space to power their teams through COVID-19 and beyond.” 

 

Banks Have Previously Led the Way

 

Geoff Prudence, Chair of CIBSE Facilities Management and Chair of ThisWeekinFM’s Editorial Advisory Board, feels that the reaction of the big financial players may shape what the “new normal” looks like for the rest of us:

“Whilst affecting all aspects of business, travel, social and personal life/leisure, the responses and performances of financial institutions are essential in shaping what that new world might look like in the medium and indeed long term.”

Prudence compares the role of the banks in leading the way as similar to previous economic crashes:

“This is of course not new. Banks and financial institutions have lead the way into and out of previous recessions. Paving the way for various models and trends in property and asset strategies including, transfers, sale and leasebacks, distributed portfolios including 'hub and spoke' locations etc.

“What is different now, is that the property and facilities market is much more mature, but above all, this current crisis has forced the effective use of technology to maintain business. So moving forward, particularly the financial sector are grasping the benefits of alternative working to benefit of staff customers and other stakeholders.”

 

Office Spaces Barclays

Picture: A photograph showing an empty office workspace

 

Prudence asserts that there will always be the need for buildings and effectively managed assets and workplaces, but new ways of working have broken down so many of the traditional barriers:

“We will still see head offices, banks, call centres and business centres in the financial sector and London will still be a leading centre in the world. But, home working, drop-ins to banks and other customer centres/ out of city locations are now proven to be established as part of the new norm.

“Financial pressures on real estate holdings and the benefits of third-party portfolios, including bookable space, will only drive this faster. Facilities managers will be involved with ensuring effective support to businesses, and the needs of employees, but this may not necessarily be operated by their business.”

Picture: A photograph of the financial district in London, showing Barclays, HSBC and Citi amongst others

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 July 2020

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