How efficient will the new working environment be?
As firms are now slowly allowing their workforce to come back into the office, many are wondering: will the new norms in the workplace allow for the most effective use of a compliance officer’s time?
2020 has forced companies and employees to rethink the way we work and adapt to a new reality. And now, as businesses are planning the migration back to the office, a new set of challenges may arise, as productivity can be impacted.
The Working from Home Shift
The last quarter has had its struggles.
When the pandemic first hit, forcing employers to send their workforce home, some predicted that working from home would bring more flexibility in people’s lives. Many saw in this initial shift an opportunity to find new hobbies, upskill themselves or even get fit right from their lounge.
But as we know, humans always end up adapting to their environment.
In reality, once employees adapted to their new reality and found their own pace, working days have increased in duration, some are feeling overworked and many find it hard to escape their professional duties. Those who initially thought they would trade their usual morning commute time with a language-learned session are instead going through their work emails. Those who thought they would sneak in a workout after working hours are in fact still in front of their laptop, working away.
Surfshark, a VPN provider, has seen a spike in employees logging back in after midnight and email patterns shifting to earlier in the morning. The pressure of cost-cutting and the inability to make excuses around missing meetings/calls is also weighing on people’s mind. JP Morgan has also reported an increase in productivity for some job types, as workers are spending less time attending meetings and in training sessions.
What About Compliance from Home?
With ESG, Brexit, SMCR and now challenges around managing conduct when employees are working from home, Compliance Officers are busy. Concern around managing conduct risks is growing within some institutions who are considering a permanent shift to smaller office-hubs and increased working from home hours. A significant number of firms were simply just not ready to make the shift to this new working environment. They were then forced to quickly get new controls in place that would be suitable for these arrangements. One key issue arose from this: some traders and salespeople were working on their personal mobiles or computers at home. This, coupled with the increasing pressure to perform in a downturn, grows the risk of market abuse.
The risk for SMF16/17 making the shift to another firm has also grown, due to the non-physical ability to build relationships and drive effective control and governance. The first certification for SMCR is due towards the latter part of the year in the asset management sector, adding to the pressure on compliance officers to have effective governance carried out for the firm.
As we move into the end of the year, many companies are now talking about returning to the office – if they haven’t done so already. As of now, the response and structure of returning is quite varied. Large teams seem to have rotation policies or have a limit as to the percentage of the workforce to be back in at the same time – usually around 20-25%. Each firm is also taking preferences to employees with easier commutes and less dependence on public transport.
For those who will indeed go back into the office, productivity is a key concern. Will they be able to meet people? Will everything remain on Zoom or Teams? Will it really be worth the risk?
These questions will only be answered over the next weeks or months. When it comes to Compliance Officers, though, one thing is sure: their ability to be entrepreneurial and manage stakeholders will be crucial as firms will be going through yet another transition period.
The Recruitment Process
Having teams back in the office also means recruitment efforts might shift and slightly go back to normal – back to when hiring managers could physically meet candidates. While screening and early stages will most probably remain over VC, the final sign off and cultural fit screening will be easier to assess in a physical context.