Making finance flexible: why the industry needs to leave presenteeism in the past to focus on outcomes

By Lianne Gatti, Country Manager UK & I at Konsolidator

 

An interesting piece ran in the Financial Times recently, exploring the issues with businesses using algorithmic management systems to monitor employees in the workplace. Whilst this kind of monitoring software is designed with the best intentions to improve output, there is a thin line between whether this is actually effective in boosting productivity of employees or just downright intrusive.

Technology has its uses in the workplace, but rather than using it to monitor employees’ every move, it should be used in a more beneficial way. This includes taking away pressure from employees, and using the tech to handle more arduous, monotonous tasks like financial consolidation. In turn this can help with productivity in the workplace, limit risks in miscalculations as well as improve employee wellbeing.

 

Making flexible working the norm

Financial businesses, especially, are notorious for having a very strong work ethic. The hours are often long; an issue perhaps even exacerbated by the commute-dropping of various lockdowns. Though, of course, many in finance remained in the office for the duration. In accountancy in particular this problem is acute, with many in the profession too busy to seek help for stress or burnout – despite more than half reporting those feelings.

The sector needs a rethink. Too often businesses believe that presenteeism in the workplace automatically proves commitment and hard work, when success should be measured on genuine output. The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned the view that employees – across many office based industries – are required to be in the office all week and has shown the multiple benefits of  flexible working.

Flexible working can have the potential to make employees more productive (no more wasted time commuting) but also encourages diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as every person’s situation is different. There are many employees that can’t always be in the office due to personal circumstances, such as being a carer or having a disability.

For me, in an ideal world, there wouldn’t even be ‘flexible’ or ‘part-time’ work. We need to have enough trust in our employees that they will get the work done, whether they’re in the office or at home, working 9-5 or accommodating needs such as school pick-up and drop-off into their everyday schedule.

 

Technology to support productivity and limit risk

And when it comes to productivity, there are other ways that technology can support this, without the need for intrusive software that monitors employees’ every move. Accountancy teams are under a lot of pressure. They are fundamentally driven by the need to ensure that figures and calculations are accurate and precise, and there is no room for mistakes. Mistakes can derail an entire budget and this can trail down and impact others across the business, and even external stakeholders. If a business is looking to grow or setting up for investment then there is extra pressure on finance teams to ensure there are no miscalculations.

With this in mind, accountancy businesses – and the finance sector at large – need to have the right technology in place to handle the complexities of financial calculation. Technology that automates financial consolidation reduces the risk of a miscalculation, manual errors, and can simplify and speed up processes. Many finance workers rely on traditional software such as Excel to handle data, and whilst this software may still have its uses, it is no longer enough to rely solely on Excel spreadsheets to handle the complexities of financial consolidation, especially if you are a growing business with ambition.

Usually these spreadsheets are owned and managed manually by a handful of employees and it is their responsibility to keep them up to date. No matter how careful someone can be, there is always the risk of human error and one small slip can result in a typographical error which can have major consequences.

If we want to ensure accountancy teams are being efficient and delivering on outputs, transferring this responsibility to financial consolidation technology is the answer. In turn, employees can spend less time number crunching and managing a myriad of spreadsheets. Instead employees can actually have a more meaningful role within the business, working as part of a productive and dynamic finance team.

Financial teams are in many cases already overworked and a team that is overworked and tired can result in more financial error and mistakes, which can have devastating consequences for the entire business and its goals. The right kind of technology is one that supports employees in their workload and allows them to be of more value; playing a bigger role in setting up the business for further growth and success.

There are huge benefits in financial businesses adopting technology to support employees and ensure that productivity is met to the highest standard. However, monitoring software that tracks their every move fundamentally betrays a lack of trust in employees. There is a stigma in the industry around office presenteeism that needs to change. Just because someone is not spending long hours in the office, does not mean they are not working just as hard as everyone else. If the industry wants to become more inclusive and continue to attract new talent, this will be the key to building a motivated and happy team.

 

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