Financial services leaders face important hybrid work questions

It now appears that even companies in the financial services industry will give hybrid work more of a chance.

For most of 2021 leaders of major investment banks and other financial giants were pushing to get their staff back into the office and move away from the hybrid split-time scenario that became necessary from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The rationale behind their resistance to hybrid work was that investments and other money-moving deals are far more likely to be transacted through personal interactions than via online meetings, which meant that the bottom line would suffer if important dealmakers were doing much of their work remotely.

This aspect of the current business climate was discussed earlier this year during the inaugural Vyoptaverse online summit, where international business leaders Saemin Ahn of Rakuten and Haim Zaltzman of Latham & Watkins LLP shared how they’ve had to modify their business practices to cope with the pandemic.

Now, new reports are showing that attitudes in the financial services sector are changing because of the impact the delta variant of Covid-19 is having on infection rates and public health systems across the globe. Earlier this month the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. abandoned a planned Oct. 4 return for its return to offices, with that return delayed indefinitely.

And Fortune cites a recent PWC survey of business leaders in a report that only about one in five companies surveyed – the majority of which were in the Fortune 1000 – would have their workforce back in the office by the end of the year.

For companies that are still pushing for a full return to the office or a hybrid work situation that will allow some portion of remote working, there are important steps to take, and questions to ask.

Vyopta CEO and co-founder Alfredo Ramirez said certain roles such as traders and those closing deals will be seen as more crucial to have in the office, with those people also likely to venture out for one-on-one or group meetings and negotiations.

Ramirez said there are steps financial services and other major organizations should have in place or be in the process of executing to handle both hybrid work and the prospect of bringing their people back into the office.

The first is providing the best possible unified communications and collaboration tools and infrastructure, so those working remotely or in the office will be able to have important meetings and work sessions with peers without lag or quality issues.

“It’s important that the remote or home office tech is not neglected, because it can negatively impact the quality digital experience for call and meeting participants,” he said. “This in turn makes collaboration fail.”

Companies with returning workers also need to reevaluate their on-premises infrastructure since one nearly universal component of hybrid work will be an increase in desktop video endpoints to enable remote communication even among coworkers located in the same office. That demand on UC bandwidth needs to be anticipated, with capabilities increased to prevent poor calls that can frustrate workers and executives conducting important business.

Ramirez said companies also need to realize that too many employees may lack key basic knowledge about the UC and collaboration tools they are using. Or they may need formal training about how to conduct meetings as effectively as possible in remote or dispersed formats.

And there are metrics that UC and IT teams need to be aware of to be sure that quality isn’t affecting productivity or that workers are staying engaged in their jobs.

The key data areas are:

User adoption of tools for the overall business, across distinct business units and based on geography, to be aware of gaps in usage that can decrease communications and collaboration

Call and meeting statistics for all modalities across the business, departments, and locations to identify persistent quality issues that will impact how well people are working or interacting with outside partners.

To learn more about preparing for hybrid work, Marc Haimson, Vyopta’s senior director of business development, recently shared his thoughts on Cisco’s blog for the financial services sector.

And Vyopta’s new ebook about the opportunities and demands of hybrid work can help organizations of all sizes prepare and adapt to the changing workplace smoothly.

Chad Swiatecki

Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.