The experience and requirements of Covid lockdowns have accelerated the pace of workplace transformation. While hybrid working was once the purview of a relatively small handful of employees, working in an office 5 days a week is now a statistical outlier.
Flexible working is here to stay. But as expectations of workplace flexibility becomes the norm, companies are having to navigate the necessary and often complex regulatory requirements whilst balancing the needs of their employees.
The data on the hybrid shift is clear. The vast majority (94%) of the global office workers were working remotely more than 50% of the time during the pandemic and now, 72% of global workforce say that they would like to work remotely, mostly part of the time(1). With this greater flexibility, there often comes an expectation that remote working can mean borderless working. But that may not always be as simple as it might first appear.
Originally put in place to ensure business continuity during the pandemic and the related lockdowns, remote working has soon shown its many benefits to businesses, from employee motivation and engagement to office space management. Perhaps of all sectors in which work can be conducted remotely, financial services is the one where embracing flexible working will require an incremental approach.
PWC’s insights into the insurance sector(2) notes that insurance executives are moving to more flexible work arrangements because it encourages productivity, fostering employee motivation and well being.
But despite enthusiasm among employees and employers alike, the reality is that the financial services sector comes with restrictions for remote and/or cross border working. Before the pandemic, 29% of financial services companies had approximately 60% of their workforce working remotely at least once a week, lower than the 36% reported across all industries says PWC(3).
The multiple intricacies behind the scenes of building a flexible working policy and the specificities of each sector (banking, insurance, asset management), each subject to different collective agreements and regulations, cannot be underestimated. More than two thirds (70%) of financial services employers believe their teams should be in the office at least three days per week to maintain a distinctive culture. However, only 20% of their employees said they believe the typical employee needs to be in the office three or more days per week(4). This is the beginning of a journey where regulations will need to evolve over time if countries and companies are to stay competitive, and for remote working to become frictionless cross border.
Luxembourg, sitting at the heart of the European project, is a global leader in financial services. It is also relatively unique when it comes to the complexity of putting together a flexible work policy; taking into account a number of external factors including access to data, social security and taxation rules concerning cross border workers with neighbouring countries Belgium, France and Germany.
Nonetheless, two years of intermittent lockdowns has opened up a much-needed conversation on hybrid working and flexibility in Luxembourg and beyond. Findings from the Google Mobility Report show that workplaces in Luxembourg have seen a 10% fall in the amount of people going into the office since the start of 2020. Mindsets, expectations, and requirements continue to evolve, and further change is inevitable. The significant progress that has been made since the start of the pandemic demonstrates that greater flexibility for home/remote working is feasible.
Crucially, companies must clearly and fairly articulate their approach to flexible working together with their wider employee value proposition. Attracting and retaining talent does not only succeed in one’s approach to flexible working. It also needs greater attention and focus on training and development opportunites, employee wellbeing, personalised approaches to career pathing and opportunities to thrive in an international environment.
Companies and subsequent rules and regulations can’t stand still if they wish to stay relevant to attract and retain talented employees. As regulations evolve, businesses will need to continually asses the feasability of greater work flexibility and communicate clearly with employees about their businesses’ journey.