Reimagining a modern collaborative workplace for finance

by Ben Paul Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7841 495910

by Gavin Hildreth Finance Benchmarking Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7595 609676

As we enter 2021, the modern workplace has changed remarkably since this time last year. It now typically consists of a spare bedroom or home office, possibly shared with housemates, family or pets. While some of those working setups won’t be permanent, there will be long-lasting change to our work environment and how we work.

Our report, ‘Finance Insights – Reimagined’, conducted with the ACCA, shows how the modern workplace environment has a key role to play in attracting new talent and enabling greater collaboration with the business, as finance strives to become a strategic business partner and adviser. 

A modern finance workplace reimagined

Trends that many assumed would be temporary look almost certain to stick. Remote working, video meetings and virtual conferences, for example, will continue long after the pandemic. While COVID-19 has simply been an accelerator of these trends, a recent PwC US Remote Work Survey shows that 83% of organisations employees will continue to work remotely at least once a week after the pandemic.

This is a trend that will affect Finance. Historically more cautious about technology trends and generally more traditional in how it works, we’re likely to see big changes: certain sub or support functions outsourced or relocated, and various teams and departments permanently working remotely.

Drive what the future workplace looks like

For the ‘finance business partner’, changing behaviours offer a chance to shape what a new workplace and systems look like. As more streamlined processes and opportunities arise, they may need to look at how they improve their function’s decision-making, for example. 

Elsewhere, do they need to redesign office layout and location strategy? The entire purpose of space needs to be reevaluated. Offices are unlikely to have traditional structures any longer - we expect to see a trend towards more event-ready, open or meeting spaces aimed at collaboration or entertainment. Finance is typically located in the head office, but we’re likely to see this reviewed as organisations look to cost-effective options or relocate office space to better-value areas for non-client facing workers. 

As organisations transform workspaces to meet returning employees needs, they need to consider:

  • How footprint affects strategy - Looking at the business’ data on site location, size and workforce mix, and analysing how decisions may affect individuals
  • Site-by-site reviews of input factors with filtering and sorting capabilities to compare sites
  • Reviewing job families and departments to analyse which jobs are needed on-site vs. which are highly productive remotely
  • Creating a coordinated business continuity strategy - do you need to set cutoffs to create cohorts of similar sites?
  • What employees want and how to determine their concerns and needs, to help communicate effectively

Could culture be the counterpoint? 

But before making any decisions, organisations must consider the impact of workplace choices on business culture and employee wellbeing. 

While it’s possible to increase automation, cut costs, relocate and completely adopt remote working, employers need to consider whether they should. You must be careful not to lose what makes your company attractive to top talent and isolate current employees. 

One particular challenge is how to manage the performance of your remote workforce in their own homes while maintaining their trust. Internal audit and performance management approaches will need to evolve to meet the requirements of the new workplace. While a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated surveillance tools can help employers monitor quality, compliance and performance, there’s a need to balance these with employees’ concerns over autonomy and privacy. 

While remote and flexible working is attractive to current and prospective employees, it needs to be balanced with the environment. An exclusively remote-working business will unintentionally force video calls over moments of connection with colleagues in-person and may not attract the strongest candidates.
Other culture points to consider could include:

  • Does your workforce need to be agile? Will you benefit from them being able to work when, where and how they like? 
  • How will you configure control and performance management approaches and keep the trust of your workforce?
  • How does your proposed new workplace create greater efficiency for the business? It shouldn’t be just about cutting costs.
  • Do you have or can you introduce a way to share insights across teams? For example, dashboards or analytics that allow real-time information and communication. 
  • Do you have the technology to provide accurate information to everyone in a central place?

While the recent and rapid changes to how we work bring new opportunities, they also bring new challenges. Either way, the post-pandemic world will not be the same as before and the forward-thinking finance business partner must get involved in shaping what that new workplace, workforce and systems will look like.

Download the ‘Finance Insights – Reimagined’ report for more in-depth analysis of the future of the finance function.

by Ben Paul Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7841 495910

by Gavin Hildreth Finance Benchmarking Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7595 609676