How big banks made flexible working the norm

How big banks made flexible working the norm

Big banks these days are anything but traditional. In this blog, we reveal how the biggest names in finance are pioneering a workplace revolution… 

Over the last few years, a quiet revolution has been stirring in workplaces around the world. And it has been led by an unlikely champion of modern work life: big banks.

Flexible working hours, remote working and job-sharing schemes may seem to come as standard in most workplaces today. But these once-radical concepts have been championed by financial institutions for years. And with good reason.

According to multiple independent reports, younger workers crave freedom over high salaries. Earlier this month, a survey by accountancy firm AAT found that workers in all sectors who were offered flexible working hours were more productive and took less leave than those who stuck with regular office hours. The same study discovered that three quarters of those workers would be reluctant to leave their existing job if their next employer didn’t offer the same level of flexibility.

Big banks led the way in flexible working

As major employers, big banks tend to be trendsetters when it comes to office life. In fact, several of the big 4 have been trailblazers in this area.

For some of us, the evidence has been mounting for years. I know of several people who have relocated out of Australian cities to regional locations, such as the Sunshine Coast, where they can continue to do their job from home. Although they might need to pop into a local office from time to time, they don’t actually need to sit at a desk in head office anymore.

But flexi-working does not begin and end with remote working. Across the world, big banks are offering a range of innovative benefits to help their employees achieve their ideal work/life balance.

In the UK, Lloyds has made “a healthy lifestyle balance” a key part of its pitch to future employees. For the past few years, it has been offering benefits and rewards, including flexible work options, such as working from home, job-sharing or undertaking reduced hours. As a result, the bank has been listed as a top 10 employer for working families and a Times Top 50 employer for women.

Employees of the Bank of America are entitled to claim a generous package of insurance options, as well as free medical screenings and free counselling. To support young families, the bank also offers every employee up to 40 days of back-up child and adult care when regular arrangements aren’t available. Furthermore, all new fathers are entitled to 16 weeks of paternal leave, on full pay.

And at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, employees can make use of purchased annual leave, career breaks, carers leave, study leave, community service leave, compassionate and unpaid leave, as well as job sharing and flexi-hours.

Global banking group HSBC has been banging the drum for flexible working environments for more than a decade. In a research paper published last year, the bank noted that 81 per cent of employees said that remote working would encourage them to increase their productivity levels. However, the report concluded that “despite the emphasis placed on flexible working by employees, just 30 per cent of businesses offer it.”

Employers only need to look to the big banks for proof that the modern office is on the cusp of a permanent change. While the average annual staff turnover rate for UK businesses is 15 per cent, it is just 9.5 per cent in the financial sector. The banking industry is at the vanguard of this change but the desire for flexible working options is global – a recent survey by Mercer indicates that employees from 44 countries, and within 21 industries, identified permanent flexibility as one of the most significant factors in what people now look for in a job.

What does the future hold for the workplace?

The traditional ‘9 to 5’ model is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, to the benefit of both employees and employers everywhere. And, if you want to predict the big workplace trends of the future, you need look no further than the financial sector.

In Australia, banking giant Westpac has pioneered ‘lifestyle leave’ and community day leave, with each employee entitled to take one day off per year for their own wellbeing, and another day to give back to the community. The firm also offers wellbeing support so that employees can make the most of these benefits.

Big banks are clearly not resting on their laurels when it comes to reinventing the modern office. And for existing and future employees, this can only be good news.

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