The future of offices: Remote working leading the way for office free businesses

Global companies are now letting go of the traditional office settings that use to house their businesses. The pandemic has caused global offices to be replaced with remote working and social distancing. The Guardian recently released that an estimated 1.7 billion people have been ordered to remain at home as governments take extreme measures to protect their populations against COVID-19 pandemic [1].

Organizations from across the globe have managed to turn their operations to remote ones. With certain global lockdowns easing many employees are concerned about going back to the office environments they were once so very used too.

What are the trends we are witnessing? 

Today we are seeing more and more organisations failing to renew their leases or opting out of them in hopes of not only keeping their workforce secure and safe (not wanting the additional added risk of travel and coming into close contact with others) but also keeping their operational overheads down. Firms are facing their biggest financial challenges yet, with payment holidays, non-performing loans, and a steep rise in deficits. The need for budget cuts will be a discussion most firms have and if they can remove large costs such as office rental fees and keep already productive remote staff safe, it makes sense to change the way they work.

Another reason for the closure of offices is that firms have seen the benefits of remote working through positive feedback from staff as well as their productivity levels. Multiple bank CEO has expressed concerns over sending their large amounts of staff back financial districts and have been surprised at just how well and productive remote working has been. Westpack has stated that they will re-assess sending staff back to major city offices as they have seen a spike in staff productivity from those working out of home-based offices [2].

The Insurance Journal reported Norman Blackwell, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, told a City & Financial webinar, that he “ didn’t think any of us imagined quite how effective it would be working in this way, holding board meetings, holding discussions with multiple participants” [3]. Many in financial services are seeing the benefits of remote working and are looking to impellent this way of working into their organisations for the foreseeable future.

The digital handshake – ‘hand’ling new work practices 

The pandemic has affected every facet of work so new adjustments need to be made and may take some getting used too. The digital era has truly started, which means that now more than ever businesses will rely on digital systems and platforms to help support their remote workforces become agile and resilient. This trend is especially prominent in the financial sector, with banks investing in digital platforms that can aid communication and automation of services. It also brings new methods of working and client engagement and interaction. It is the new reality thousands have come to terms with and have embraced.

The secret is about embracing technology and people. Having the right digital capabilities can truly make your organisation a great one, and this can be seen with the example of Goldman Sachs. 50% of their workforce will remain remote for the foreseeable future [4]. They can do so as they have the necessary digital capability and their CEO David Solomon, suggested this allows for flexibility for employees thus making them a more attractive business overall.

Is the #WFH fad over? 

For some, it will soon be over but for other organisations who have embraced remote working, this could be the new way they work.  Even if staff are to return to work the offices, they are used to will cease to exist. Several health and safety regulations will need to be abided by to curb potential virus transmission. Screen dividers and social distance lunches are just a few changes that will need to be made to keep staff protected. Until a vaccine is developed and mass-produced, or the transmission of the virus falls significantly, precautionary measures will need to be followed and inputted into open offices.

Remote working, your new office 

Home offices across the globe have been set up and companies who are serious about the remote working transition have supported their staff by shipping additional screens and necessary office equipment staff would not usually have in their homes. They have also been covering costs for staff to set up home offices, to ensure staff can be as productive and comfortable as possible home office environments. They have also increased remote wellbeing platforms to ensure that staff has adjusted physiologically to the transition.  Gartner recently released a press release on the shift to remote working where they reported that the 243 out of 317 CFOs and Finance leaders interviewed, will move at least 5% of their office employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19 [5].

The rise in contingent employment 

Office settings are not the only things being impacted by the pandemic.  We have seen two key trends in workforces over the last several weeks. The first being the change from permanent roles to contingent ones, and the second, organisations cutting costs by hiring on a project basis rather than attaining permanent staff. Now more than ever individuals are leaving their 9-5 roles because of redundancies caused by the pandemic. Firms are also turning to the contingent workforce to cope with the increased demands they are facing. Trends in the market reveal that many organisations are starting to plan for the influx of work they can expect in the months ahead now and are doing so by resourcing a remote contingent workforce that can solve the issue of additional demand and supply.

Remote settings are paving the way those in financial services are conducting their businesses. If you are looking for remote support and are interested in learning more about how we can help you, find out more about how we can assist you.


Works cited:
[1] Davidson, Helen. “Around 20% of Global Population under Coronavirus Lockdown.” The Guardian, 24 Mar. 2020, Accessed 12 May 2020.
[2] Smith, Paul. “Westpac Mulls Permanent Remote Staff.” Australian Financial Review, 11 May 2020, Accessed 12 May 2020.
[3] Jones, Huw. “UK Financial Services Firms Weigh Options for Post-Coronavirus Work Arrangements.” Insurance Journal, 12 May 2020, Accessed 11 May 2020.