Expert: Helena Territt Facilitator: Don Wild
- Employers should take care when considering flexible working needs that they do not inadvertently change contractual terms, which might be difficult to amend later to something perceived as less favourable
- Employers should be deliberate and explicit about flexible working terms to avoid those with protected characteristics being discriminated against accidentally and to ensure transparency (not everybody must be treated identically, but those doing the same work are likely to have the same requirements to be in the office or not and the reasons should be communicated clearly)
- The big advantage of financial planning firms is they keep their core purpose of caring for their clients, at the centre of their business
The essential premise was the trend globally, post-pandemic, to move to more flexible working patterns. Essentially office days being Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Was this pattern being seen in the financial advice business?
The feedback, consistently given, was that working patterns had changed, with more work now done from ‘home’. However, there were a wide variety of models being adapted. Also, a general feeling that we are still going through an adoption period of seeing which work patterns suit the requirements of which firm.
Middle-sized firms are already experienced in remote working as office infrastructure is minimal for most firms. Use of technology particularly ‘meeting related’ digital technologies has grown exponentially, whilst other technologies need, in many cases, to catch up. Certain functions do need to be office based currently, when complex transactions are taking place, to ensure good governance and security procedures are fully deployed.
Models varied from a true flexible model of people attending the office based on work commitments, others having core working days (not necessarily, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) where everybody was in the office at the same time. One firm was soon to move to a nine-day fortnight, after which they would assess moving to a four-day week.
There was no overwhelming concern about ‘morale’ or big changes to culture, currently evident. This may be due to the flexibility afforded to small business. Also, the move is supported by financial planning professionals understanding more about their responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees post-Covid, and how both clients and colleagues need to have their wellbeing requirements understood and then supported and solutions found.
Some discussion around employers’ responsibility for workplace set-ups at home and the risk to people’s backs etc. if they did not provide a workplace assessment and sometimes suitable desks/ equipment etc.
Some attendees expressed surprise that their clients had moved to online more easily than expected, they noted that we should be careful not to make assumptions about clients or employees and to remain curious and ask.
All noted that it was important to make more deliberate efforts to build closeness and teamwork with colleagues who met less frequently and some suggested sending more gifts to clients in lieu of in person connection.
Overall, a very good session - with lots of discussion, offering validation that firms were on the right track. Nevertheless, we are still at the early stages of these new working patterns and what was stated in a ‘pandemic’ world, the rate of change is likely to continue apace as the pace of digitisation continues.