It seems workers are resisting a return to the office to the point they would rather walk away from the job than walk back into the building five days a week, with women leading demands for greater flexibility in their working week.
Financial and professional services have moved “far beyond” the traditional 9 to 6 Monday to Friday work week, towards more bespoke working models that align with providing efficient operations at the team level, and heightened autonomy for its workers, according to a new report by Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) and LSE.
The research highlights that while at the C suite level executives in many large firms are asking for workers to come into the office a specific number of days per week, in practice they are being ignored, with managers often favouring a remote first approach that satisfies local operational needs.
Dr Grace Lordan, director of The Inclusion Initiative at LSE and author of the report, said: “Firms that are adopting a ‘remote first’ approach, expecting their workers to be in the office only to collaborate or fulfil operational needs are those that can attract and retain the most diverse talent, particularly women. Firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools. These demands are also ego driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind.”
The report also proposed the UTOPIA framework, which is an action based guide for the future of work for financial services firms. It emphasises the role of trust, autonomy and psychological safety for the future of work. It also advises that firms should not seek to maximize employee happiness, but instead focus on curtailing ill-being caused by burn out and isolation.
Anna Lane, President & CEO of WIBF, said: “What is clear is no one feels as if they have got this right. So, managers are experimenting, with productivity and psychological safety of their team in the centre of their minds. It is crucial that the attraction and retention of women is monitored during this experimental phase. I expect that those managers who are demanding their workers fulfil a rigid 3, 4 or 5 day schedule, will lose women to their competitors who do not.”
The research certainly resonates with the experience in the London insurance market which has been battling with staff over how and when they needed to be in the office and in the Square Mile.
Technology is driving the ability to work remotely but while staff at insurers and reinsurers are loving the ability to work from home brokers complaints around poor post pandemic service levels and the inability to speak to an underwriter let alone have a face to face meeting is hampering broker’s efforts to place their clients’ risks.
Jon Guy, Editor