One in four Scottish Financial Services workers favour fully remote working post-pandemic

Stuart Chalmers, Head of Financial Services for Accenture Scotland

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  • 70% would prefer to work in the office just two days a week or less
  • New Accenture research finds FS employees in Scotland want greater flexibility in the future but need more clarity from employers

Nearly one in four Scottish employees surveyed at financial services (FS) firms would prefer to work entirely from home in the future, according to new research by Accenture.

With many businesses yet to announce their work from home policies, a survey of nearly 200 Scotland-based financial services employees across banking, capital markets and insurance found that 21% of workers would prefer to work entirely from home once a full return to office is possible.

The vast majority (70%) also said that they would prefer to work just two days a week or less in the office. Just 5% would favour a return to 5 days a week in the office.

A flexible working schedule (i.e. days or hours) was the number one initiative workers wanted from their employers, with 69% saying that this would help them adjust to working life post-pandemic.

However, a higher proportion of employees in Scotland (66%) than the rest of the UK (59%) do not know if such initiatives will be offered in their workplace and only 31% are aware of whether their employer will begin offering flexible working.

Moreover, there is evidence that employees in Scotland are somewhat less likely to have had opportunities to spend time with colleagues internally (23%), compared with the UK average (31%).

However, overall, the research shows a positive employer/employee relationship within Scotland’s FS industry. The overwhelming majority (88%) feel that they have the support they need to balance work and other commitments. One in four (24%) saying that support has increased since March 2020.

In a positive sign of how the pandemic has impacted work culture, 60% also said their employers had become more considerate of employee mental health.

Nevertheless, the desire for a more flexible approach to work moving forward was clear. Employees in Scotland are more likely (64%) than their peers UK-wide (57%) to agree that their workplace and role could not return to pre-COVID “normal” and more than a third (39%) would forgo compensation if they could work fully remotely.

Employees felt that working from home had been a positive experience. Over half (56%) said they had been more productive working at home and 69% agreed that losing their daily commute had given them more free time.

Stuart Chalmers, Head of Financial Services for Accenture Scotland said: “As Scotland’s financial services companies develop their future working from home policies, this research suggests that a majority of employees at all levels don’t want simply to go back to pre-pandemic routines.

“This presents both challenges and opportunities for firms in Scotland thinking not just about where employees are doing their work but how they are working too. While working from home has opened up new possibilities for talented people to locate north of the Border, how they are enabled to be productive is crucial. The sector has a big opportunity to reinvent physical workspaces, complemented by digital environments, to drive collaboration with colleagues throughout the UK and shape positive workplace cultures post-pandemic. However, companies must work hard to ensure that the technology investments they are making to support home working is matched by cultures of change that support employees to feel supported and included.

“We’re only at the beginning of the process needed to make these new ways of working a long-term solution for thriving teams. However putting in place the right building blocks now will boost diversity in Scotland’s financial services sector, attract new talent to careers here and drive forward our capacity to compete both UK-wide and globally.”

The findings do not paint a universally positive picture, though. Over one in four (29%) felt that additional pressure from COVID-19 had not been taken into consideration by their employer, while the same proportion (30%) felt disconnected or forgotten by their company.

Some (30%) have considered or are considering leaving their current firm, although over a quarter (29%) of these say this would be for another career opportunity, indicating some pent-up employee attrition to come.

One in 10 (11%) have considered leaving or do not intend to return to the FS industry altogether, with stress (19%) and lack of work/life balance (14%) the top two reasons.

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