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Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street titan, is urging its employees to revert to a full-time, in-office model. This move raises an alarm not just for the financial sector but for all remote-capable industries, ranging from the financial industry to the tech sector, igniting a debate about the future of work.
Is this a strategic blip or a harbinger of a wider shift? Key surveys from Kyndryl and Deloitte in collaboration with Workplace Intelligence tell a different story, one that underscores why hybrid work models remain critically important and shows that Goldman Sachs — and any other company that pursues a traditional work policy — will be in for a world of pain. This article provides an actionable roadmap that helps leaders of remote-capable teams make the best decisions about their approach to the future of work.
Why hybrid work is no longer optional for remote-capable professionals
The narrative is crystal clear: The financial services industry is at a crossroads when it comes to hybrid work. Kyndryl’s recent survey spells it out — financial professionals don’t just want hybrid work, they consider it essential for their job satisfaction and performance. The question for leaders isn’t whether to implement a hybrid model but how to optimize this transformation to safeguard productivity, culture and bottom-line results. And this survey doesn’t only apply to finance leaders — it’s representative of all remote-capable professionals, from tech to professional services, from marketing to accounting.
The survey data is unequivocal: 86% of participants highlighted the importance of a hybrid work model. But it doesn’t stop there — 75% would consider looking for other roles if remote work options were unavailable. Put simply, clinging to traditional office models could not only hamper employee morale but also trigger attrition rates.
Related: Debunking the 5 Myths of Hybrid Work
The dogma that equates physical presence with productivity is unequivocally debunked by Kyndryl’s findings. A staggering 83% of respondents affirm that hybrid work enhances their efficiency and enables them to meet deadlines more effectively. A separate 76% observe that it positively influences the quality of work their colleagues produce. Think about it: Freed from long commutes and in-office distractions, professionals are liberating untapped levels of productivity.
One might predict that remote work would dilute team dynamics. Not so, says 64% of respondents who find their teams are actually more collaborative in hybrid settings. The myth that videoconferencing — despite its known fatigue factor — hampers team collaboration is dismantled by this data. Interestingly, 78% of respondents felt more engaged during their in-office days, possibly due to the value assigned to those face-to-face interactions when they are more scarce.
Contrary to some fears that hybrid work might exacerbate inequities, the survey shows it might enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. A majority, 67%, feel virtual meetings provide an easier environment to contribute ideas, and 64% are more likely to offer input remotely. This has the potential to democratize meetings and allow voices previously overshadowed to resonate.
Here’s the curveball: While 91% feel their managers trust them to work remotely, over half believe their managers would prefer them to be in the office more frequently. This paradox may highlight the infancy and dynamism of hybrid policies in this sector. The implication is profound: Leaders must align their trust metrics and management practices to avoid confusing mixed messages.
This survey highlights an industry-agnostic truth: hybrid work models are no longer optional but essential for employee satisfaction, performance, and retention.
It’s not only professionals: It’s leaders, too
To truly understand the stakes of the hybrid work debate in the financial services sector, we need to delve into the 66% of leaders who are prepared to leave if required to return to the office full-time, according to the Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence survey. These leaders aren’t your average employees; they are the strategists who guide their firms’ direction, influencing not just their organizations but the entire financial industry. And the same findings apply to leaders in all other remote-capable industries as well.
The Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence survey provides more than mere numbers; it signals a paradigm shift in workplace culture. The traditional office, once the epicenter of professional activity, is ceding ground to flexible, hybrid work models. But this change isn’t merely logistical — it’s a cultural transformation. Organizations mandating three to four days a week in the office are misaligned with their leaders’ preferences, as only 18% of those surveyed find this arrangement ideal. And of course, the Goldman Sachs approach is even worse.
However, the survey also reveals an important tension. While 62% of hybrid-working leaders believe remote work could hamper their career progression, they still crave flexibility. Thus, the challenge for financial services isn’t merely to adapt but to reconcile the tension between flexibility and career growth.
The potential mass exit of leaders due to inflexible work policies is concerning. Yet, another aspect requiring immediate attention is the threat to female leadership. Women leaders, often burdened with caregiving responsibilities, are 1.3 times more likely to exit their roles if remote work options are revoked. Almost half of the women respondents in leadership roles are contemplating leaving within the next year.
This threat extends beyond just the loss of individual talent. It’s a setback for gender diversity and could impair the sector’s competitive edge while also posing reputational risks. Financial institutions must, therefore, engineer policies and environments that cater to the needs of their female leaders, ensuring remote or hybrid work does not hinder career growth.
Action steps: The roadmap for leaders
Leaders of remote-capable teams, you need to synthesize these insights into an actionable roadmap. Let’s break this down:
- Tech investments: Continue to invest in robust tech infrastructure — think beyond VPNs and Zoom to more comprehensive, user-friendly platforms that integrate functionalities across multiple departments.
- Policy evolution: Adapt your HR policies to be as dynamic as the evolving landscape of hybrid work. Your policies should be living documents, updated quarterly to reflect the changing needs and lessons learned.
- Feedback mechanisms: Implement real-time feedback channels for employees to express their experiences and recommendations for the hybrid model. This could take the form of a custom-built app, for example.
- Training: Don’t overlook training programs designed for managers to lead in a hybrid world. Remember, this is not business as usual.
- Mental health: While not obvious, mental health remains a critical facet of work, perhaps more so in hybrid models. Consider establishing partnerships with mental health platforms that offer remote consultations.
Resistance to workplace flexibility will only expedite a talent drain for all remote-capable staff. That’s why for the around ten leaders of remote-capable teams I consult with weekly, my advice remains consistent: Adapt to the flexible future of work to avert a talent crisis.