The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the traditional world of work on its head. The changes born out of necessity have affected nearly all industries, including finance.
A particularly pressing issue for finance decision-makers to ponder is recruitment. How will the coronavirus crisis impact on the industry’s ability to attract new talent, and will there be a marked changed in the kinds of roles being recruited in the long term? What will new hires expect of their workplace and working arrangements post-COVID?
There are so many unanswered questions, and no one knows for sure what will happen once the worst of the crisis recedes. But let’s take a look at a few of the key considerations likely to affect the finance sector…
Flexible and home working – is it a must for recruiting the best people?
One of the big questions being asked in recruitment departments across nearly all sectors is – should we start offering flexible working as standard?
Companies that would never have even considered remote working models have been forced to as a result of the pandemic. This has meant that we’ve all had time to get used to home working, and some of us quite like it. With more flexibility, there’s more time for exercise, lunchtime walks and even arranging childcare. And crucially, no dead time wasted on the daily commute.
Although of course, there’s a flipside – where work bleeds into home life and workers feel they can never ‘switch off’. Some office workers find it stressful and difficult to manage childcare and care arrangements, and they miss the human contact and bustle of the office.
But if businesses don’t support at least some flexibility in remote working, will they miss out on the best talent? If home working is here to stay, at least in some capacity, the best candidates are likely to expect and demand it. And they’ll go elsewhere if organisations stick to 9-5 office working patterns.
Balancing flexibility with business need
One of the biggest challenges facing finance organisations post-COVID is to balance what’s best for the majority of workers with what’s best for the business. Not all employees want to work at home full-time, and it may not have proven to be the most productive or efficient model for every business during lockdown.
However, there are some encouraging statistics on that front. Those companies able to capitalise on the use of new technologies and adapt to the change during the pandemic have seen productive time shoot up by 5% or more, according to one recent study.
People are working longer days, on average around 48 minutes more per day, and sending more emails. They’re also attending more meetings, although meetings are around 20% shorter using virtual meeting technology than previously.
It’s clear that most businesses won’t be able to just go back to normal when the coronavirus crisis is over. There will need to be at least some wiggle room on working flexibility, even if just to maintain a competitive edge in the recruitment marketplace. For many organisations, at least a couple of days of face-to-face time in the office will be non-negotiable.
Employers will need to take the time to talk to their staff, to find out what they need. It’ll also be important to look at the hard data for the business, to see how remote working affects productivity, morale, staff turnover and of course, the bottom line.
What happens when location is taken out of the equation
A few interesting things could happen if employees are no longer tied permanently to a fixed office location.
To start with, finance businesses may be able to extend their reach when recruiting candidates. If location isn’t an issue, they can attract talent from further afield – if they can find the right approach to marketing new roles. The hiring process could be easier, widening the net to more exciting candidates when they no longer have to worry about commutable distances to the office.
But where will this leave physical office space? Many large companies are already considering closing offices or downsizing. For businesses with no permanent office space, there’s the risk that this could put off potential candidates – as some really want or need access to an office base at least some of the time.
For those that maintain some facilities, what effect will it have on the atmosphere of the office if more people are choosing to work from home? We can expect to see big changes in the design of office spaces to accommodate this, with more focus on collaborative working, hot desking and informal meeting spaces.
The last thing to consider when removing location from the equation is talent retention. In one possible outcome, people may be more likely to stay with larger companies for longer, due to more progression opportunities.
But there could also be more people staying put in senior level roles if they can be based at home. This could actually mean less opportunities for people to step up into a next level role with their current employer.
Remember, you don’t have to navigate post-COVID recruitment challenges alone. Get in touch with our accountancy and finance recruitment experts here at Sewell Wallis – we’ll be with you every step of the way.