work from home
Business Resilience Europe Fintech Ecosystems Thought Leadership

Aqilla: To Be or Not to Be… in the Office? That Is the Question

Seven in 10 companies are demanding their employees to return to the office. While many argue that it encourages face-to-face communication and inspiration that cannot be replicated at home, there are definitely some perks to working remotely. But do they outweigh the benefits of the office?

Hugh Scantlebury, is the CEO and founder of Aqilla, the accounting and finance platform. Speaking to The Fintech Times, he explains why organisations find themselves in such a tough situation when it comes to working remotely or in the office. Providing examples from employees at the firm, he says:

To be or not to be… in the office? That is the question
Hugh Scantlebury, is the CEO and Founder of Aqilla
Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and founder of Aqilla

The remote working debate has become even more polarised since COVID. Now that the world has returned to normal, many workers are reluctant to go back to the old office-based nine-to-five. Indeed, over a third are ready to quit if forced to do so. Whatever your view on hybrid working, for lots of people, it’s hard to give up that flexibility once they’ve had a taste of it. Especially if it hasn’t impacted their efficiency and has improved their lives.

Yet, globally, as many as seven in 10 companies are mandating a return to the office. Even the giants of the finance and technology industries are putting pressure on – Apple, Goldman Sachs, Google and Zoom (noting the irony of this one) to name just a few.

But is there a happy medium? How should business leaders strike a balance between remote and office working that will keep employees happy and companies running smoothly?

Why is working from home so popular?

Time saved travelling to and from the office is a key home working benefit. The average commute time in the UK is 59 minutes – imagine how much additional time employees can win back in a year if they avoid it.

Even if the saved time isn’t spent working, giving employees an extra hour back each day can go a long way. They could do something positive for themselves; time to exercise, take up a new hobby, or even catch up on the housework. But whatever they get up to, it’s likely to contribute towards a healthier work-life balance.

In the long run, this gives back to the business. Well-rested and less stressed employees are more motivated and productive and have higher job satisfaction. Plus, helping staff reduce non-essential travel is an excellent way for companies to boost their sustainability credentials. It also contributes to positive environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting.

What’s the business benefit?

Remote working also opens a new talent pool. Businesses aren’t restricted to hiring employees within a commutable distance but have access to the best talent across the country — or even the world. We’ve seen this in particular within the tech sector, with employees searching the globe for the best coders, developers and cybersecurity experts; skills that fintech companies, in particular, face challenges trying to recruit and retain.

It can also make business much more accessible to a wider range of employees. For example, when we first started Aqilla, we employed an accountant with young children. She worked solely from home during nursery hours or while her children slept. It would have been tough for her to commute, but she could work just as well in the comfort and ease of her own home — and on her terms. As long as the accounts were being looked after, it didn’t matter when or where she worked.

Why doesn’t everyone work from home?

But there are reasons why business leaders are pushing for a return to the office. First, there’s really nothing quite like being in the same room as your team to spark that essential inspiration, creativity and debate. They also worry that the in-person camaraderie that’s so important for a thriving company and career fulfilment will disappear — and that everyone will be worse off for it.

Also, there are few better ways to develop new skills than learning in-person from more experienced co-workers. Just by hearing conversations in the office, employees can pick up useful tips and hacks – it’s just something that can’t be replicated from home.

What solution meets everyone’s needs?

Working requirements differ from person to person. It is impossible to keep every employee happy, but a flexible hybrid working policy will certainly put businesses in the best position to do so.

To make hybrid working policies a success, finance teams should ideally have access to a cloud-based accounting platform. This allows them to easily collaborate on reports, data analysis, management, and financial compliance – no matter where they work.

Other collaboration applications are also vital for enabling hybrid working in the long run. Instant messaging applications, such as Skype and Slack, provide quick support for employees when needed. It also allows finance teams to converse quickly, making collaboration easy and seamless.

Is hybrid working the future?

Hybrid working is definitely here for the long run. The benefits it brings employees and businesses make it an obvious choice for finding a balance between remote working flexibility and in-person engagement. But to make hybrid working successful, business leaders must provide cloud-based applications and infrastructure to make remote collaboration as easy as a group of colleagues sitting down in the same room.

They also need to invest time upfront with senior management and HR to work out key systems, checks and processes. This should ensure employees who choose hybrid working continue to feel:

  • Part of their team
  • Fairly assessed for annual reviews
  • Able to access help and support when needed,
  • Able to maintain comparable salaries with colleagues who work full-time in the office.

With these checks, balances and cultural considerations in place, I believe flexible hybrid working can be a win-win for businesses and employees.


Related posts

Fintech, Digital and the UAE 2022 – Expo 2020 Dubai

Richie Santosdiaz

Nordigen: Screen Scraping as a Cybersecurity Risk can Lead to Virtual Chernobyl

The Fintech Times

SumUp Expands Into B2C Payments Space With Launch of ‘SumUp Pay’

The Fintech Times