Almost a year since many countries began introducing lockdowns, working from home has become a way of life for millions of people around the world – and treasury professionals are no exception. What’s more, while remote working arrangements may be a necessity when stay-at-home orders are in place, it is also likely that many companies may decide to make these arrangements permanent.
In October, a survey by US-based Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) found that decision makers expect 34.4% of their workforces to work from home permanently in 2021 – up from 16.4% before the pandemic began. Likewise, a survey by the UK’s Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 74% of businesses plan to maintain the increase in home working, while over half intend to reduce their long-term use of workplaces.
Limits of the virtual world
While some companies have found their remote workforces to be highly effective, this type of setup also has its challenges. Mike Richards, Chief Executive of The Treasury Recruitment Company, argues that there are limits to what treasurers can do in a virtual environment. “There’s still a need within treasury for people to mingle – to train and work together,” he says. “Can they do that in a virtual world? No, they can’t.”
It’s clear that the working from home experience comes with both pros and cons. On the one hand, treasurers may be able to improve their work-life balance by clawing back hours that were previously spent commuting – or indeed, they may choose to increase their productivity by adding some of those hours to their working day. But this isn’t necessarily the optimal arrangement for every treasurer, or indeed for every organisation.
“Treasurers still need to support their teams,” says Richards. “If you have a team of people at different levels, those people will need different levels of coaching, training and assistance.” As such, he argues there is still a need for physical meetings that can better facilitate everything from social interaction to mentoring. He cites the example of a group treasurer he recently recruited – “Although the treasurer is based some distance from London, he will still need to be in the office a minimum of two days a week in order to support the team – so he will stay in London overnight to accommodate that.”
In the meantime, home working arrangements are also taking their toll on some people as the pandemic continues. A 28-country survey of almost 13,000 people by the World Economic Forum and Ipsos found that 49% of those surveyed felt lonely or isolated when working from home, while half reported difficulty finding a work-life balance.
Richards says the experience of working from home has prompted some treasury professionals to re-evaluate their roles: “The extra pressure that some people have faced – for example, when working extra hours to complete a technology implementation from home – has led some people to start looking for a role that offers a more reasonable balance,” he notes.
As a result, Richards says new roles are currently attracting much greater interest than in more typical conditions. “There’s been a lack of movement, resulting in a logjam of people and talent,” he concludes. “A lot of people are very frustrated right now – but that brings a risk that they will look at roles they are overqualified for, instead of the next career-enhancing role that they should be aiming for.”