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The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in the financial sector has changed dramatically because of the Coronavirus pandemic and the move en masse to working from home. It’s clear that these changes will remain permanent – as the demand increases for the financial sector to move to a hybrid working model.

by Steve Rafferty, Country Manager, UK & Ireland, RingCentral

Research from Atlas Cloud found that 90% of those working in financial services want the ability to work at least one day a week from home. On top of this, Microsoft research highlights that 66% of business leaders are redesigning physical spaces to accommodate hybrid working and improve staff retention. This has revolutionised the role of the CIO and has brought soft skills to the forefront of the CIO’s responsibilities.

CIOs must now monitor the impact of technology overload and burnout on employees as part of their broader role to drive strategy and transformation. As hybrid working cements itself across financial services, CIOs must adapt accordingly to help their teams remain fully operational and productive.

Steve Rafferty, Country Manager, UK & Ireland, RingCentral, discusses the changing role of the CIO
Steve Rafferty, Country Manager, UK & Ireland, RingCentral

In the new world of hybrid work, CIOs must consider the importance of human contact and take on the responsibility to make it easier and more rewarding for teams to connect in the workplace. This can be achieved through ensuring that employees, especially those in the high-pressure roles, continue to maintain connections that would usually be nurtured in-person. Interactions between employees are at risk of becoming too transactional. Therefore, ensuring that there is the right technology in place that will enable human connections between employees – on a formal and informal level – is an important priority for CIOs.

Burnout had a natural impact upon workers in the financial sector during the pandemic due to the high-demand and constant nature of the industry. For example, 9 out of 10 (86%) financial organisations in the UK experienced an increase in demand for mental health support during the pandemic according to research from Koa Health. Further, a study from Benenden Health found that 63% of managers in the finance sector have suffered from burnout at work since the UK first went into lockdown. CIOs in the financial sector must now ensure that potential burnout in staff due to technology, is monitored closely to avoid further strain on employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Policies that ensure workers aren’t overworked in the hybrid future will be essential –  including healthy working hours, and a flexible approach to work.

The finance sector has been unwilling to move away from the tradition of working in a physical office 100% of the time, and despite the pandemic proving it is a feasible option, there is still some reluctance; 70% of financial services employers told PwC they believe employees should be at their desks at least three days per week to maintain a distinctive culture. However, the same research found that only 20% of employees want to be in the office three or more days a week. This disconnect proves a challenge for businesses, and many will look to the CIO to bridge this gap. CIOs will have to consider the physical and virtual workspace and the relationship between the two.

At the heart of striking the right balance is putting the right technology solutions in place which will create participation equity, which in turn brings about a level playing field for all employees, regardless of physical location. Throughout the last year and a half, we have seen countless companies adapt at an incredible pace. Now, CIOs should take the time to review their interim solutions and assess what their company’s needs are. Cloud based communication systems that are intelligent alongside digital workflow tools can power human connections and effective collaboration experiences across businesses, wherever an employee is based. With the right tools in place, the CIO can ensure that the connection and collaboration needs of the remote and onsite workforce are met, burnout and workload is managed, and organisations can realise that productive workforces no longer need to exist in one physical space.

As hybrid working continues to embed itself as the new norm, and the future way of working for the financial services sector, there are now added responsibilities on the CIO to ensure that staff are fully operational across a hybrid landscape. These new responsibilities ultimately include assisting their staff in using hybrid working technology to its full potential, as well as adopting the soft skills needed to assist teams in managing burnout and technology overload. Further, they need to create an inclusive environment as employees are spread out across in-office and remote locations.

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