Finance staff ignoring mandatory office attendance in move away from presenteeism

Firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools.
- Dr Grace Lordan

Financial and professional services have moved far beyond the traditional 9 to 6 Monday to Friday work week, towards more bespoke working models that align with providing efficient operations at the team level, and heightened autonomy for its workers, according to a new report by Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) and LSE.

This has necessitated the sector to move away from presenteeism as a marker of productivity.  The 100 workers interviewed were adamant that a ‘remote first’ move either had no impact on productivity, or had a positive impact. This move highlights that the sector is far beyond the four-day work week which is currently being trialled in many firms in the UK.   It also highlights that while at the C suite level executives in many large firms are asking for workers to come into the office a specific number of days per week, in practice they are being ignored, with managers often favouring a remote first approach that satisfies local operational needs.

Dr Grace Lordan, Director of The Inclusion Initiative at LSE and author of the report, said: “Firms that are adopting a ‘remote first’ approach, expecting their workers to be in the office only to collaborate or fulfil operational needs are those that can attract and retain the most diverse talent, particularly women. Firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools. These demands are also ego driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind.” 

The report is based on qualitative research that included 100 workers across financial services. Those interviewed were 30% men and came from a large array of firms including Bank of America, Blackrock, Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, NatWest, Schroders and UBS. The report proposes the UTOPIA framework, which is an action based guide for the future of work for financial services firms. It emphasises the role of trust, autonomy and psychological safety for the future of work. It also advises that firms should not seek to maximize employee happiness, but instead focus on curtailing ill-being caused by burn out and isolation.

Anna Lane, President & CEO of WIBF, said: “What is clear is no one feels as if they have got this right. So, managers are experimenting, with productivity and psychological safety of their team in the centre of their minds. It is crucial that the attraction and retention of women is monitored during this experimental phase. I expect that those managers who are demanding their workers fulfil a rigid 3, 4 or 5 day schedule, will lose women to their competitors who do not.”

Dr Jasmine Virhia, Postdoctoral Researcher at The Inclusion Initiative at LSE and co-author of the report, said: “Implementing  the actions of UTOPIA will enable the maximisation of productivity while simultaneously allowing employers to embrace diversity.”

Yolanda Blavo, Behavioural Science Research Officer at The Inclusion Initiative at LSE and co-author of the report, said: “Our work suggests that leaders should trust their employees and create an environment where employees can openly share their ideas or concerns without fear of ostracisation or backlash.”

Read the report here:


Behind the article

The WIBF Accelerating Change Together (ACT) Research Programme is the first cross-sector initiative to drive policy change to better support and retain women in financial services. This report was produced as part of the ACT Research Programme.

The Programme is sponsored by Aegon, Bailie Gifford, Barclays, Blackrock. Citi, The Cumberland, EY, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, LSEG, Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, Santander, TD and Schroders.

Established in 1980, Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF), is a not-for-profit, volunteer-led network, connecting individual members and institutions across the industry and the UK, with branches in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Belfast. Our mission is to bring a gender lens to UK Financial Services by connecting, challenging and inspiring our network to unlock the full potential of financial services for all. We seek opportunities to challenge and inspire as a thought leader, in collaboration with our partners and members (both male and female), to help deliver tangible change in financial services.

The Inclusion Initiative (TII) is a new research centre at LSE  founded by Dr Grace Lordan. TII aims to create inclusive leaders, as well as measure inclusion at both the firm and team level for the betterment of business.