How the pandemic has impacted the office environment

ByUna McGuniness
Posting date: 07 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the working environment. Thousands of professionals in London have made the shift to working remote, with the daily commute becoming a relic of the past. Many companies have been forced to adapt to the changes, acting swiftly to safeguard the future of their organisations, as well as their employees. In the financial services industry, the effect of the pandemic continues to unfold as companies across private equity and banking prepare for the “new normal”. But how exactly has society within financial services changed and what does the future hold?

The changing role of the office


Before the pandemic, the office was a critical part of business operations. Offices were seen as essential for productivity, collaboration and company culture. The rise of the open-plan office paved the way for more team interaction, flexibility, and even transparency. As a result of the pandemic, the focus of the office environment has now changed. Now, more people than ever before are working from home and being onboarded remotely. With tools like MS Teams and Zoom, companies no longer need to depend on physical offices. And according to Savills, London has seen the largest rise in “grey space” across Europe – which is the term for offices that are currently vacant and available, but not technically on the market. This shows just how drastically people have moved away from offices in London – and many other financial capitals are also seeing lower demand.


In the financial services industry, many of the top firms have been operating completely remotely Many organisations are settling into a hybrid work model to keep employees happy and fulfilled. For example, it was reported that private equity firm Blackstone was asking staff to register on an app that they have no COVID symptoms before they return to work. Traditionally, financial institutions have always been quite rigid in their work cultures, but with remote working becoming the norm, many finance workers are now being offered more flexibility.

Impact of COVID-19 on recruitment


The pandemic has affected all aspects of recruitment. One of the most notable changes is remote hiring – which has given many businesses the option to recruit professionals from any location. With social distancing rules in place, it’s much more difficult to interview candidates in-person. This means the recruitment process has become increasingly streamlined, with video interviewing, for example paving the way for more efficiency in the hiring process. Other tech-driven practices like remote recruitment events are on the rise right now. Personal interaction will still be vital for building relationships, particularly for private equity professionals who rely on regular face-to-face meetings to close deals and drive returns for investors. However, the remote worker is here to stay. The pandemic has forced companies to be more diverse and widen their network across different geographical profiles, and there are further opportunities to create a more welcoming environment for employees who have previously struggled.


Will remote working re-shape the future of work?


Late last year, it was found that 74% of London-based banks and insurance firms were assessing their office needs. Of the 133 financial firms that took part in the survey, 88% said the pandemic has led to a greater shift toward working remote, with more than 90% saying that they could easily perform their jobs from home. As mentioned, in many finance organisations, the work environment won’t be totally remote but may become hybrid. Arguably, the shift toward working from home has broken down many emotional barriers, giving colleagues and clients a glimpse at what people are like once they leave their London office. The rise of virtual calls has meant that professionals will have to build relationships with people they’ve never met in person. With digital technology having a stronghold on the working world, it’s not unrealistic to suggest we might see more London-based companies hiring remote workers from various countries.


Indeed, the pandemic has accelerated an increase in nomadic workers who choose to live and work abroad. Hopefully, companies will eventually evolve out of this crisis and remain connected. Private equity firms and other companies must continue to embrace remote working and support additional flexibility. However, in this challenging market, firms will need to determine how they can consistently provide value to partners while managing remote employees who may be scattered in different locations. The shift toward remote working has changed the landscape of the working world, so financial services companies will need to continue to adapt to a new, tech-driven future.

Hanover can assist with your financial services recruitment


At Hanover, we have a highly experienced and dedicated team of recruitment consultants with deep knowledge of the financial services sector, including private equity and wealth management. Recruiting and selecting candidates during a pandemic is a challenge, but we’re able to offer businesses the best advice and expertise, as well as guide candidates who are looking to take the next step in their careers. We provide leadership solutions to increase the performance of your leaders and ensure the long-term growth of your business. If you would like to find out more about our services, contact our team today for further information.

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