Why the finance sector is offering home comforts to tempt staff back to work

Finance chiefs are offering more incentives, including free meals, ping pong and “contemplative spaces,” as they struggle to get staff back to the office as concerns about the cost and value of commuting to work weigh on attendance worldwide.

Hybrid work policies were introduced across the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, but data and interviews with financial sector executives showed lower-than-expected attendance globally, Reuters reported.

With expenses such as fuel and food rising rapidly, workers accustomed to pocketing the costs of commuting have additional reasons to stay away, posing a challenge for employers to increase the attractiveness of office work.

“Employers have done a lot to make the office more attractive and purposeful,” says Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, citing a number of benefits from free meals to improving social space with ping tables. pong.

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But a global survey of around 80,000 workers conducted by the consulting firm Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) showed that employees do not adhere to hybrid work policies.

Where organizations have policies that require two, two, or three or three days in the office, attendance is 1.1 days, 1.6 days, and 2.1 days, respectively, AWA found.

“When we got out of the block and the regulations were loosened, people tried to get into the office … and when they got there they found that all they were doing was being called Zoom,” says Andrew Mawson, CEO of AWA. .

“The reason people don’t go to offices is because they have become accustomed to a lifestyle and cost structure that suits them.”

Senior managers may be among the most adamant about staying at home, says Kelly Beaver, chief executive for the UK and Ireland at survey firm Ipsos, who is ditching its two-day-a-week hybrid policy in favor of a more flexible approach.

“We find some of them less tolerant of small office frustrations, or find traveling to the office an unnecessary burden… but they’re missing out on networking,” he says.

While younger staff in the financial sector are aware of how remote working could affect career advancement, job seekers often cite remote working as a preference.

Since the beginning of August, 80% of people looking for jobs in the financial sector on Flexa, a global online platform that allows users to search for roles based on flexible job preferences, have specified a preference for “remote” roles or “remote first,” a 33% increase since March, said a Flexa representative.

Employees still have a great deal of influence, says Peter Hogg, director of cities at Arcadis real estate consultant in London.

“It’s a high-risk strategy for companies to be too directive in terms of telling people what to do,” says Hogg.

The consulting firm is now more committed to helping companies “adapt” their offices, making changes such as adding more “contemplative space” in the form of indoor gardens, libraries or informal areas with soft furnishings, than any other. time from the pandemic, he says.

A UK-based trading company has begun providing showers, napping areas and laundry services for bleary-eyed staff who work late on business, says Leeson Medhurst, director of strategy at Peldon Rose, who designs offices for companies.

“Our client said: ‘We will see our office as a hotel’; they meet the employee’s needs, not necessarily the company’s financial needs, ”he says.

In August, the City of London Corporation, which manages the financial district, said it had hired a curator of the “Destination City” program to design events such as theater, games and live performances.

UK bank Aldermore is encouraging staff to return to the office without returning to pre-pandemic norms, says CEO Steven Cooper.

The bank is considering hiring a doorman to help staff manage daily errands like dry cleaning in the office that would otherwise have more flexibility to do at home, he says.

The people most reluctant to return to the office are people who have moved to the suburbs and have long commutes, says Partnership for New York City’s Wylde, while younger staff are more likely to show up.

“Young people are recognizing that their career advancement will depend on relationships in the office,” he says.

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The largest financial firms on Wall Street have been among the most proactive in bringing employees back to the office.

Goldman Sachs Group recalled its employees to the full-time office in June last year, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan are mostly back while Citi has a hybrid deal.

On Thursday, the Jefferies Financial Group said it wants staff to return to their offices rather than “lone home silos,” although they are also working on a hybrid basis.

Goldman and Morgan Stanley also said they will lift some pandemic-era protocols in early September, including wearing face masks and coronavirus testing in their offices, reuters reviewed reminders showed.

In March, JP Morgan volunteered masks at its corporate offices and ended mandatory testing for unvaccinated employees. The largest US bank has also curtailed its policy of hiring only vaccinated individuals.

The weakening UK economy and rising energy costs could lead those worried about office layoffs faster than free snacks or other incentives, says Chris Gardner, co-chief executive of real estate lender Atelier. based in London.

“If, as expected, things tighten by the end of the year, being present and being visible in the office will become more important,” he says.

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Updated: 03 September 2022, 3:30 am

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