What does a flexible working norm mean for resilience?
In the past two years, many employees and employers have found their ways of working disrupted, accelerating a massive shift to homeworking in response to the pandemic.
Regardless of whether your staff are working from home or working from the office, the need for operational resilience remains.
So, what does the future of flexible work mean for resilience?
Certainly, businesses in the financial sector and beyond have been tested in terms of operational resilience in response to the disruption caused by the pandemic.
The shift to homeworking brought with it the introduction of many new systems, causing strain and challenges at various operational business points. Operational resilience was put to the most stringent of tests.
Yet because working from home on such a large scale was a new phenomenon, there wasn’t a precedent the industry could learn from when it came to operational resilience.
Flexible working is what many employees now want. Recent research shows that two thirds of employees (64%) would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time.i
And now that homeworking and hybrid working looks set to stay as part of the working landscape, what should financial institutions be thinking about in terms of resilience? And what has the sector learned so far?
Andrew Rogan, Director of Operational Resilience Policy, UK Finance, thinks that the financial sector coped well with the recent enforced changes to ways of working.
He sees the shifts made to business services during the pandemic as having been an important experiment from an operational resilience perspective, and one that was passed.
“It was remarkable what the sector managed to achieve in that time… We’ve gone from having one or two workplaces to having hundreds of bedrooms,” Rogan says.
“What Covid showed us is actually flexible working and home-based working is a very, very powerful tool in building more resilient workplaces.”
However, he points out that there are still big questions to think about, in terms of complications created by flexible working.
“What does that mean for security, cybersecurity? What does that mean for culture? What does that mean for supporting staff? What does that mean for being able to monitor from a regulatory and conduct perspective? What does that mean for leadership?”
One of the systems areas that most companies need to consider differently in a hybrid-working world is technology. Whereas previously, companies had to be ready for the possibility of power failure or IT failure in one central office, now, the potential for this extends to each homeworker’s home.
Those working remotely who use a computer are reliant on their home broadband and power supply working well.
How often will this cause problems? According to research carried out by Uswitch in 2020, almost 15 million consumers suffered a major broadband outage in a year. Uswitch found that the UK lost 16 million working days to broadband outages in 2020-21, costing the economy an estimated £5 billion in lost work time.ii
In terms of operational resilience, companies then need new ways of managing tech support, and planning for technology-based issues. What alternatives, for example, do employees have, for if their home broadband goes down?
An additional factor is that home networks may also be supporting other devices, many of which will be unknown to the organisation’s information security specialists.iii
Dealing with confidential information is a further area which resilience planning needs to be considered. For example, should remote working guidelines detail whether tasks containing confidential information should be done in an office?
Other questions are to do with software, and decisions around which communications platforms are needed to best facilitate remote and hybrid working. Again, what is the backup option for this?
Looking to the future of the working world, managers need to keep considering these and many other challenges in terms of operational resilience. Those companies that succeed will be the ones that successfully adapt to ever-changing ways of working.