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ACHIEVING THE PERFECT SET UP FOR HOME OR MOBILE WORKING

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Nichole Izzo, Head of Marketing North West Europe, Logitech

 

Working from home, or at least away from the office, is becoming increasingly popular among employees, with half of the UK workforce predicted to work remotely by 2020. In fact, the opportunity to work flexibly may even be a deciding factor for many when accepting new roles – recent research found that 91% of employees across the professional services sector think it is important to be able to choose where and when they work.It is also an increasingly important factor for attracting the younger generation into the workforce, as many see themselves as ‘free agents’, and expect employers to enable them to work from anywhere, at any time.

And it makes good business sense to facilitate flexible working. With productivity shrinking by a reported 2.1% each year since 2009, and 61% of banks reporting a moderate to severe skills shortage, allowing employees to work in a way which best suits them is crucial for attracting and retaining talent in financial services, and for boosting productivity. In fact, research in 2018 from HSBC found that 81% of employees felt that remote working would help them to be more productive.

Clearly, having a comfortable and productive working environment, wherever employees are, is more important than ever. But in order to empower a remote workforce to be productive on-the-go, financial services organisations need to equip them with the right technology tools. Here are four key tips to help any individual to maximise the potential of flexible working.

 

Nichole Izzo

Maximise comfort

Are you sitting comfortably? Being comfortable at work may seem obvious, but according to the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 2.6 million working days were lost in 2017/18 in the UK due to ‘work related upper limb disorders’ and 2.2 million from back disorders. While the highest rates of injury were for workers in manual roles, technical and professional occupations also make up a significant proportion.

The research also found that these types of workplace injury were largely caused by awkward positions, keyboard work and repetitive action. This may be from chairs and desks being set at the wrong height, or the consistent use of keyboards and mice putting a strain on the wrist and arm. In order to avoid pain and injury, providing employees with ergonomic office peripherals which are specifically designed to prioritise user health, and ensure maximum productivity, is worthwhile for a home office.

This could be in the form of a keyboard with padding design to support the wrist, or an ergonomic mouse designed specifically to reduce wrist pressure by mimicking the natural handshake position. An added benefit from using ergonomic keyboards and mice is that they maintain high productivity in jobs that rely heavily on computing technology by reducing wrist injuries and wrist strain.

 

Have the right tools for the job

When working at home, or on the go, it’s important to be empowered to be as productive as in the office, but this can only be the case if the office set up matches each employee’s specific needs. For example, an employee who spends most of their time typing may require a keyboard with large, well-spaced, backlit keys. Alternatively, an analyst or trader navigating spreadsheets could benefit from a mouse with customisable buttons, making scrolling and switching tabs more streamlined.

 

Prioritise mobility

Flexible working doesn’t just mean having a home office; it can include working on the go, at a café or in shared workspaces, which are growing in popularity in cities across the country. Designed for those who travel frequently, freelance or are self-employed, these situations require a portable set-up which offers the same ease of use as a desk and computer. For example, a tablet can become a portable laptop when paired with a detachable keyboard ensuring a light and compact workstation which enhances productivity no matter where you work. Similarly, using noise cancelling headsets can drive increased focus, productivity and more engaged calls and meetings even in crowded and noisy environments.

 

Encourage a video-first culture

Although many believe they are more productive when working flexibly, some employers may worry about a potential reduction in collaboration with fewer employees meeting face-to-face in the office. In order for flexible working to be effective, therefore, maintaining a collaborative culture is important. One way to do this is through developing a video-first culture among employees, ensuring they see the value in maintaining face-to-face communication even when away from the office. Then, investment must be made into equipping employees with the right tools to enable quality video collaboration.

For example, investing in portable webcams which offer high quality, easy-to-use video conferencing and can be simply plugged into a laptop for an instant video call. The video quality of a webcam is usually higher than that of built-in laptop cameras, and can also be placed on a fixed monitor or used in video-enabled spaces on-premises where staff can effectively collaborate with remote workers.

Professional-grade headsets will be vital in ensuring seamless communication between remote and on-site employees. IT managers should look for high quality, easy to use devices with technologies like active noise cancellation, and compatibility with the company’s communication platform.Having easy to use ‘plug and play’ video collaboration equipment that is tailored to different meeting environments such as co-working spaces or huddle rooms is a key requirement for enabling all workers, regardless of where they are based, to collaborate effectively.

 

Working away from the traditional office space has become a more common practice in the financial services industry and is an important step for employees looking to improve their work-life balance, whether that is by reducing their commute, giving them the time to care for children or loved ones, or pursuing a personal passion. But in order for this model to work, businesses need to ensure their remote workforce is equipped with the best tools to be productive outside the office. By investing in ergonomic, portable and customisable desktop peripherals and video collaboration tools, businesses will help to support their employees to work effectively from virtually any location.

 

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Banking

Poor software testing puts banks at high risk of IT failures

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 Sune Engsig, VP Product at Leapwork

 

IT failures have plagued the banking industry for several years. From the TSB computer systems meltdown in 2018 costing the bank £330m and causing 80,000 customers to switch to a competitor, to Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland suffering an IT glitch on payday this year with customers’ faster payments and transfers being delayed.

Despite MPs calling for regulators to act, condemning the number of IT failures in the financial services sector as ‘unacceptable,’ the industry continues to let them happen leaving more and more irate customers locked out of their accounts. But with bank branches disappearing fast, customers are now far more reliant on online and mobile banking, so ensuring technology systems function correctly is paramount.  When you consider the complex compliance and regulatory setup of banks and other financial institutions, and the fact that they are dealing with incredibly sensitive customer information, those that do experience outages can face irreversible consequences such as loss of customer loyalty, severe reputational damage and regulatory fines.

A critical step in mitigating IT failures is having effective testing capabilities in place to find and fix any errors before new software is rolled out to market or new IT migrations take place. This lowers the risk of software failures and outages occurring after launch. Yet, 70% of software testers in banking and financial services think it’s acceptable to release software that hasn’t been properly tested, so long as it’s patched later, according to research by Leapwork. Furthermore, only 40% think software failures are a big risk to their company. But when the impact of an IT failure is so severe, why do banks still take risks?

 

Software testing challenges

Despite the swathes of software businesses now rely upon, 85% of software testing is still done manually. When it comes to the banking sector, as these institutions continue to develop new digitised products and services with increasingly sophisticated and customised software, it is clear that manual testing can no longer be the default. It is time-consuming, cannot scale amidst a skills crisis, and leaves companies open to human error.

There is a huge amount of pressure on IT teams to develop and release new software or manage new IT migrations. A critical step on this journey is having effective testing capabilities in place, like test automation, to find and fix any errors and bugs before new software is rolled out to market. This lowers the risk of outages and failures occurring after launch, which can negatively impact a company’s reputation and bottom line.

However, while some organisations recognise the value of automation tools, many continue to rely too heavily on code-dependant tools which, while an improvement on manual testing, are incredibly complicated to use and thus require specific skills and experience to operate. This means they too are impossible to scale, as they often depend upon developer skills.

 

Skills shortage forcing banks to take risks

Ensuring you undertake proper software testing seems like a no-brainer, but 40% of software goes to market without sufficient testing. The reason why; one in five (21%) of banking and financial services testers say ‘lack of available skilled developers.’ As companies transition from manual to automated testing, which typically requires coding skills, the major global developer skills shortage is creating bottlenecks, increasing costs and delaying project delivery times as development teams try to upskill manual testers, hire new talent or lean on existing developers.

As a result of the skills shortage, only 30% of testers in banking and financial services say they’re using some element of automation (i.e., an automation tool or a combination of manual and automation). In fact, 40% of CEOs across all industries think the fact that their company still relies on manual testing is the main reason why software isn’t tested properly, with 58% of testers in banking and financial services saying ‘underinvestment in test automation’ is the reason sufficient testing does not occur.

 

Testing issues not on CEOs’ agenda until too late

Across all sectors, 69% of CEOs think it’s acceptable to release software that hasn’t been properly tested, so long as it’s patched later, but 68% of testers claim their teams spend five to 10 days per year patching software. While nearly all testers express concern that insufficiently tested software is going to market, the overwhelming majority (75%) of CEOs say they’re confident their software is tested regularly. These numbers show a huge disconnect between CEOs and testers indicating that testing issues are falling under the radar and not being escalated until it’s too late.

 

Moving toward an automated future

Banking and financial services have been thought of as slow-moving and lacking innovation in the past. That isn’t the case anymore, as we’ve seen the industry take great strides towards digitalisation in recent years. However, with that digital transformation and integration of software comes outages, the consequences of which mean millions of pounds lost.

UK banks are at high risk of IT failures due to insufficient software testing, and a reliance on manual testing. On the current trajectory, more and more banks will struggle with failures and outages which could cost them a significant amount in financial and reputational damage. To minimise risk, they need to transition from manual to automated testing and explore testing options that don’t require coding skills so it’s easier to hire in talent or upskill existing team members, whether that be testers or everyday business users. Only then can they increase productivity and time to market while decreasing risk and costs.

 

 

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Business

Financial Services Makes Gains In Employee Engagement

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By Phil Chambers, GM Workday Peakon Employee Voice 

 

A new report shows that the financial services industry improved in almost all elements of employee engagement last year. Can such momentum be sustained?

After more than two years of change, one thing is certain: keeping workers engaged has become more challenging – and more urgent. Record numbers of workers have left their jobs in the UK. And, as turnover has increased, employee engagement – people’s mental and emotional investment in their work and workplace – has been tested. In today’s climate, engagement isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative – especially as companies with engaged employees are known to reap benefits including higher productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

The financial services industry hasn’t been immune from the so-called Great Reshuffle. But, according to Workday’s latest State of Engagement Report, it did make measurable gains in employee engagement during 2021. Of the 17 industries analysed, financial services’ engagement ranking jumped from ninth to fifth place.

The report analysed nearly 9 million employee responses from almost 2.5 million employees throughout 2021. It compared the engagement scores given by employees working in different industries over the 12-month period, as well as scores for the 14 drivers of engagement – including autonomy, goal setting, meaningful work, reward, and recognition.

Organisations in the financial services industry have been considered less   quick to evolve than others. PwC recently characterised insurance companies, for instance, as “traditionally risk-averse and slow to change”. But, as the report shows, financial services clearly made some improvements. It is noteworthy given the enduring pandemic-related economic turbulence of 2021 – and the fact that during that time global engagement scores overall slightly declined.

 

Where The Financial Services Industry Improved in Employee Engagement

Remarkably, the financial services industry saw increased rankings and scores in all but one of the 14 engagement drivers that the State of Engagement report measures.

Of all 17 industries analysed, financial services took top place for goal setting by the end of 2021 (up from sixth at the start of the year) and landed among the top three sectors for strategy and recognition too. These strong results indicate the industry provided clear direction to its people at both individual and organisational levels, and appropriately recognised employees when they met their goals.

The improvement in the industry’s overall engagement, however, was driven largely by a sizable increase in its environment driver score in 2021, suggesting that a significant number of employees responded positively to having more freedom around where they worked during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for financial services firms to offer flexible options at all. But, in 2021, more than ever before, many firms’ employees were working remotely or enjoying a hybrid of both remote and in-office work – as and when offices started to re-open. This unprecedented choice in where, how, and when they worked was appreciated, as the report indicates, by many workers in the sector.

 

Where There’s Room For Improvement

As the report found, many employees feel the amount of work they have is increasingly unmanageable. Workload continues to be a pain point across all industries globally, with workload satisfaction scores dipping slightly in 2021. At the end of the year, financial services received its lowest engagement-driver score for workload and ranked 11th among the 17 industries analysed.

This indicates employees in the financial services industry found their workload less manageable as the year progressed, which is perhaps unsurprising when considering the pandemic’s ongoing toll in many parts of the world, and the fact that remote working can lead to ‘always-on’ work lives.

To help mitigate burnout risk and diminished engagement going forward, financial services leaders and managers will need to stay close to their employees in the months ahead to find out how they can best support them, whether that’s with additional resources, greater work flexibility, or updated benefits. By regularly staying abreast of people’s needs and taking the necessary action, organisations can spot potential problems before they lead to resignations.

 

What The Industry Should Avoid Going Forward

In recent months, we’ve seen some financial institutions try to take a “return to normal” approach, requesting their people go back to working onsite five days a week. But, as the report shows, this approach may not be the best one for everyone, particularly as the past two years have revealed that many employees appreciate and benefit from a greater degree of flexibility.

Of course, not all organisations will be able to provide hybrid or remote arrangements for all their people. But greater flexibility doesn’t necessarily have to mean working remotely. It could mean more flexible scheduling options, or a shift in working hours to enable a greater work-life balance.

Either way, to retain the engagement gains achieved in 2021, the financial services industry should resist the temptation to look back, and must instead take learnings from the past two years. Amid so much economic and societal change, and with employees continuing to shift jobs in record numbers, companies cannot simply go back to before, but need to continue moving forward, listening to the needs of their people, and leading with empathy.

Specifically, leaders and managers in financial services will need to stay closer than ever to employee feedback, going beyond listening and working fast to implement change accordingly.

For the industry to continue making positive gains in employee engagement, it will need to: consider how to retain a degree of flexibility – updating models to reflect evolving employee needs; continue to provide clear individual and organisational direction to those working remotely and on site; create and maintain more manageable workloads through prioritisation and automating repetitive tasks; and continue to reward and recognise employees for their hard work and achievements.

While great strides were made last year, it’s more important now than ever that leaders in the financial services industry determine and understand how employees are feeling so that organisations can explore and shape a future of work that works for everyone.

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