Two years have now elapsed since companies across the world first started issuing work from home edicts to employees - as the seriousness of the pandemic became increasingly acute. Initially, most people simply assumed the disruption would be over within a few weeks - or six months in a worst case scenario - before normality once again resumed. Such optimism – as we now know with the benefit of hindsight - was ill-conceived. In fact, our entire way of working and running a business has irrevocably changed - both for better and for worse.
Remote working – a permanent feature of the pandemic?
Post-pandemic labour shortages, wage inflation together with challenges around talent retention have created enormous problems for a number of companies in financial services. However, it is also forcing firms to think more laterally about their hiring processes.
The increasingly hybridised nature of working is enabling companies to tap into resources which hitherto would have been unavailable to them. Whereas before the pandemic, most firms would hire talent locally, the proliferation of remote working means that they can conduct searches further afield geographically. Nonetheless, this does raise important questions about how to best assimilate remote employees over the longer-term - especially if they are only going to the office intermittently or not at all.
Previously, it would also have been unthinkable for a financial institution to be based outside of a traditional financial centre but this mentality is rapidly shifting too. Fuelled by the pandemic, remote working and the rise of video conferencing tools such as Zoom now means companies can establish operations almost anywhere.
Increasingly, growing numbers of financial firms including banks and hedge funds are migrating away from crowded metropolises like New York in favour of cheaper and more tax friendly states such as Florida. Whether these changes remain permanent features - however - remains to be seen.
Vaccination – the great debate….
With more people expected to start returning to the office over the course of 2022, employers are grappling with the dilemma of making vaccines mandatory for staff. This is highly contentious and divisive although 27% of US companies told Manpower Group that they expected employees to be double vaccinated while a further 18% insisted people be triple vaccinated.
Again, there do seem to be divisions here with large companies among the most enthusiastic proponents for mandatory vaccines in contrast to smaller firms. However, the issue is particularly acute for companies with cross-border operations – especially in countries where vaccine hesitancy – for whatever reason – might be higher. The introduction of compulsory vaccine passes for employees could expose companies to all sorts of legal challenges.
Is 2022 the year we go back to normal?
After so many false starts, there is growing (albeit cautious) optimism that 2022 will be the year in which a semblance of normality resumes. Omicron – the latest variant of COVID-19 – appears to be far less severe than earlier strains suggesting the virus is slowly becoming endemic within our society.
Whether or not things like remote working become permanent features is open to debate, but it is evident that our way of doing business has changed forever.