Finance staff ignoring mandatory office attendance demands, report suggests

Written by: Daniel Thomas
Published on: 28 Feb 2023

finance staff
The report by WIBF and LSE said a move to ‘remote-first’ working, in which homeworking is the primary option for most staff, had either no impact or a positive impact on productivity © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Workers in financial services are often ignoring company rules on the number of days they should be in the office, according to a report sponsored by some of the UK’s largest financial institutions.

The study by non-profit group Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) and the London School of Economics found staff wanted more flexible working as they rejected presenteeism in favour of productivity.

Finance workers saw flexibility rather than the need to meet a quota on days in the office as better aligned with efficiency at team level, according to the interview-based report.

The pandemic has caused many companies to consider new ways of working, with many moving to more flexible approaches but with a set number of days when workers are expected to be present in the office.

The report said a move to “remote-first” working, in which homeworking is the primary option for most staff, had either no impact or a positive impact on productivity.

It added that this “highlights that while at the C-suite level executives in many large firms are asking for workers to come into the office a specific number of days per week, in practice they are being ignored, with managers often favouring a remote-first approach that satisfies local operational needs”.

The study, based on interviews with 70 women and 30 men in the City of London and carried out by LSE, covered businesses in banking, asset management, professional services, fintech and insurance.

The researchers interviewed workers of various levels of seniority at companies such as Bank of America, BlackRock, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, NatWest, Schroders and UBS.

Grace Lordan, director of the Inclusion Initiative at LSE and an author of the report, said workers were growing frustrated with being told to go to the office to simply sit on a Zoom call.

“Firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools,” she said. “These demands are also ego-driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind.”

The study found that women especially favoured a more flexible approach and flagged concerns that overly prescriptive approaches to working in the office would deter female staff.

Anna Lane, president of WIBF, said: “I expect that those managers who are demanding their workers fulfil a rigid three, four or five-day schedule will lose women to their competitors who do not.”

The report was carried out with WIBF’s Accelerating Change Together research programme, which is seeking to better support and retain women in financial services.

The programme is sponsored by Aegon, Baillie Gifford, Barclays, BlackRock, Citi, The Cumberland, EY, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, LSEG, Moody's, Morgan Stanley, Santander, TD and Schroders.

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