It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic sent much of the workforce home. Before the pandemic 29% of financial services organizations had at least 60% of their workforce working from home at least once a week. Now, 69% of financial services companies expect to have at least 60% of their workforce working from home at least once a week moving forward (pwc.com). This is a dramatic change, and it is expected to continue long after it is deemed safe for full returns to the office. In fact, according to Forbes, by 2025 70% of the financial services workforce will be working remotely at least 5 days a month, and the percentage of employees working from home is expected to double in 2021.
How are institutions performing?
With so many more people working remotely, it seemed a perfect opportunity to assess the impact the change has had on financial institutions. By and large the effect of remote work has been wildly positive. Before the pandemic, many institutions were hesitant to allow employees to work from home because they feared it would lead to lower productivity and more distractions. The opposite turned out to be true. 94% of employers say that productivity (with remote workers) has been the same as or higher than before the pandemic (Forbes). Noting both the success of their employees as well as the cost savings that could incur if a portion of their workforce remains remote (real estate costs, office utilities, relocation compensation, etc.), many financial services institutions have already declared their intentions to make remote work a more permanent change.
What is the effect on employees?
It is not just the companies that are benefitting from remote work, employees’ responses to the shift have been overwhelmingly positive. The number one pro employees are doting on about working from home is the ability to have a flexible schedule. As someone who just crossed the one-year mark of working remotely, I can personally attest to this perk. Especially during a time with so many unexpected life changes – kids being sent home for virtual school, taking in aging relatives, or simply anything else life is throwing your way – the ability to step away from your computer and be instantly available to put out the fire (rhetorically or literally) happening at home or take a ten-minute walk outside to clear your mind is priceless. Working from home is proving to be a stress-reliever for remote employees, and in a world where stress levels and mental health issues are at all time highs, this is a benefit employers mustn’t take lightly.
Productivity and happiness are not the only factors contributing to working remotely, 75% of employees said that their ability to collaborate was the same or improved while working remotely as well (pwc.com). There are a couple of employees draw-backs to the change as well. One disadvantage to working remotely is that it is more difficult to highlight professional achievements (Forbes). Knowing this, employees must be more intentional in amplifying their engagement virtually to ensure they have access to new opportunities. The second primary challenge in working from home is the blurred line between work and personal time. 22% of remote workers admitted to struggling to unplug after work (smallbizgenius.com). This is a very real task for all of us working remotely. With working hours often more loosely defined and no commute to clearly divide our time, it is all to easy to find yourself responding to emails or joining Webex meetings late into the evening hours. While one may think that they are being a superior employee when responding after hours, in reality they are making themselves high-risk for burn-out. Without creating some sort of personal boundaries between work and home, one may soon find themselves feeling exhausted and unmotivated in their jobs.
What does this all mean?
No matter which side of the argument of working remotely you may find yourself on, the truth of the matter is, this is the new way of the world, and the financial services industry is no exception. Remote work has been an idea discussed in financial services for years without any significant change. Now, 74% of CFOs at financial institutions plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends (Forbes). Disparate workforces are here to stay and now it is up to you to determine how your financial institution will best equip your staff to be successful. Watch our Financial Services Secure Remote Worker video here and review our Business Resiliency infographic to understand how Cisco can help you make this latest industry shift the best thing that ever happened to your institution.