Insight & Analysis

Remote working in treasury

Published: Apr 2023

Three years after lockdowns forced a change in the working patterns of office-based workers, remote working continues to be an option for many. Following on from our recent article on the rise of hybrid working, Royston Da Costa, Assistant Treasurer at Ferguson, shares his views on working remotely.

What should treasuries consider when contemplating remote working versus working in the office?

I think it’s important that companies give their employees the choice. And by choice, I don’t just mean about being able to work from home. Some employees might actually want to work in the office five days a week.

Challenges arise when companies try to apply one rule for everyone, or they allow one employee to work remotely but insist another employee comes into the office. Likewise, I’ve heard of instances where there have been resignations because people have not been given the choice, and have been forced by their companies to come in.

What are the advantages of working remotely?

Ferguson in the UK requires associates to go into the office on average two days per week. I believe, working from home is more efficient – for one thing, I’m not spending two hours stuck in traffic – and I have the flexibility of being able to manage my time. I can plan my day in such a way that I can work in a way that suits me. I’m fortunate I have a home office, the broadband in my area is very good, my daughters have graduated, and I have few distractions when working from home.

Based on a number of published reports on improved productivity, we can also see an improved work-life balance from widespread remote working. People now have more freedom to fit leisure activities into their workdays and ultimately, prioritise their wellness.

What are the benefits of remote working for a company?

Is a company more interested in hours worked, or in output? If the company is only focused on clocking in and out, then in my view, it’s not looking to get the best from its employees. If it’s concerned about output and productivity, then it needs to make sure there is agreement between company and employees on the best way to achieve that.

If employees are experiencing improved mental health, they will have improved motivation and work more efficiently – all of which leads to better productivity. Any potential disadvantages tend to be linked to a lack of social interaction.

Would you say there’s a danger that people may become isolated if they work from home?

It comes up all the time – ‘If I don’t spend as much time in the office as I used to, I’m going to miss out on social interaction.’ Well, compared to the past that’s true. But the reality is when I go into the office – and I think it’s the same for a lot of people – much of my time is spent on Zoom calls or meetings.

Now we have flexible working guidance, not everyone comes in on the same day. When I’m in the office, I will interact with one or two people. If anything, I feel the social interaction I’ve had working remotely has been of a higher quality than if I had been going into the office.

Is remote working here to stay?

When I was starting out in my career and my children were very young, there was never an option of working remotely or flexibly. But there’s an argument the workplace doesn’t have to be an office in a particular location. Technology has revolutionised the way we work, you can work from your laptop, phone, tablet etc.

For the younger generation, I would say the pandemic has had an impact on their expectations. They know what it’s like to have more quality time with their family, and now they have experienced flexible working, they value it and are strong advocates for it.

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