The COVID-19 outbreak may have served as proof for many banking institutions that working fully remotely is quite possible when the need arises. However, it may also have its downside or disadvantages.
Some senior banking professionals are now saying that it’s become necessary for workers to come back to the physical office in order to maintain company culture, promote or encourage good behavior and conduct, and also to ensure the overall quality or standard of work.
Although some big tech firms such as Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. and Fintech challengers like Revolut anticipate or foresee large numbers of professionals working from home on a permanent basis, some things appear quite different in the world of banking and finance.
During the week of February 22, 2021, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon had rejected the suggestion that working from home would be the “new normal,” adding that having workers at their (physical) offices was a key element of the institution’s innovative, collaborative “apprenticeship culture.”
Pricewaterhousecoopers’ (PwC) December 2020 Remote Work Survey revealed that 70% of financial services workers and managers think that employees should be at their (physical) desks at least 3 days each week in order to maintain a “distinctive” culture.
Meanwhile, just 20% or 1 in 5 employees responding to the survey said they actually wanted to return to the physical office for 3 or more days per week. This indicates that there’s somewhat of a mismatch in overall expectations that could become a “big management challenge” for banking institutions, according to Bhushan Sethi, a global leader of PwC’s people and organization practice who mainly focuses on the financial services sector.
Although the survey was performed in the United States, Sethi clarified that financial institutions in the City of London are quite likely to face the same type of resistance and related issues.
“In some institutions, the leaders are saying they want to consolidate their office footprint and become a hybrid workplace. But some of those leaders are also privately telling us: ‘We have such a transformational change agenda; we need people in the office so that we can actually build that camaraderie and get it done.’”
When it comes to dealing with compliance and related risk functions, bank managers are worried about the overall (negative) toll that the new remote working environment is taking on culture and people’s behavior.
ING Groep‘s behavioral risk management department, which aims to assess habits and cultures that might pose a serious risk for the company, has reported that there’s been a significant increase in the number of requests to investigate work-from-home-related behavioral issues and patterns during the past year.
It has uncovered many new trends like screen fatigue, increased work pressure or stress, communication problems and the overall lack of “personal connectivity,” which may hamper the effectiveness and engagement of workers and this could lead to compliance risks, according to Mirea Raaijmakers, who leads the team.
Raaijmakers pointed out that the Coronavirus crisis has created numerous opportunities for far more flexible and remote work, however, it has also come with its limitations.
“We shouldn’t fool ourselves by thinking that we can do this completely remote[ly],”
She expressed concerns over the loss of that “connective tissue” between company workers. This is key to any banking institution’s overall performance, innovation and compliance strategy, however, it’s currently under a lot of pressure, she revealed.
In an update shared with CI, Advanced Recovery Systems, which operates a network of addiction treatment facilities across the United States, noted that they’ve been performing research during the past year regarding the pandemic’s effects on mental health and substance use.
The team at Advanced Recovery also mentioned that the “one thing [they] were interested in understanding is the role employers are taking in providing mental health resources to their employees.”
“We know there’s a positive impact when businesses invest in mental health, both from a productivity and profitability standpoint, but how seriously are companies taking these commitments, especially during a once-in-a-generation pandemic?”
According to Advanced Recovery Systems’ new survey of 2,000 employed adults in the United States:
- 75% of employees “reported experiencing adverse mental health symptoms during the pandemic.”
- Even though mental health symptoms “were widely reported, 40% – up to 64 million workers – said they would not be comfortable sharing a mental health challenge with their boss or employer.”
- Up to 32 million American workers “don’t have access to employer-offered mental health resources.”
(Note: you may check out the complete survey report here.)