One year ago, when COVID-19 forced widespread lockdowns, financial services companies across the world closed their offices and sent employees home to work.
Since then, their return to the office has been fitful. In September 2020, many large banks urged workers to return to the office, while other institutions such as hedge funds, whose workers generally had the tools they needed to work from home, did not. Asset managers and private-equity firms took a middle road.
In November, as COVID-19 cases once again surged nationwide, several firms that brought workers back to the office after Labor Day had to send many of them home again due to a spike in new virus cases. At the same time, several major banks delayed their fall 2020 target dates for a full-scale return to the workplace.
While some employees say they can be just as productive working from home, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that employee productivity depends largely on the employee’s role. For example, financial advisors have long been mobile, so their productivity hasn’t taken as big a hit as that of traders, who need access to more tools, such as trading terminals, that are available only in the office.
Productivity aside, employees of financial services firms, particularly younger ones, have found that the lack of visibility while working from home means they’re not getting the coaching and training they need. They also say their extra work is unappreciated, and that it’s harder to separate performers at the top from those in the middle. Collaboration is more difficult, and innovation has taken a hit in the absence of in-person encounters beside the watercooler.
By and large, the financial services industry is ready to get back to the office. Financial advisors expect a complete return to pre-pandemic business practices within the next six to 12 months. Here’s how four large finance companies used WeWork’s products and strategies, leveraging our flexibility and ability to scale, to customize their offices according to their needs.
An insurance firm finds a home during a time of uncertainty
The problem: A multinational insurance brokerage company was in the middle of an uncertain merger while also facing the expiration of its current lease. It was looking to reduce capital expenditures on short-term spaces and to keep its workers safe during the pandemic. In order to do so, the firm wanted to de-densify the office to reduce the number of people in the space at any given time.
The solution: WeWork provided the company with an entire dedicated floor on the second floor of a building that, like all WeWork spaces, promotes social distancing and was designed to emphasize productivity. In the midst of uncertainty, the company now has a large space where its teams can work and collaborate.
The clean, practical design of the space gives it a friendly, professional vibe, and the second-floor location enables employees to bypass the elevator and take the stairs—a consideration that has been important to the company during COVID-19.
The firm also opted to provide its employees with WeWork All Access passes, which give workers the freedom to set up for the day in any of the hundreds of WeWork offices located in 150 cities in over 30 countries across the globe. This gives employees the flexibility to work closer to home while reducing the number of people at headquarters on any given day.
The result: Flexible terms mean that while the firm can take a long-term approach to doing business in their new office, they’re not locked into a long-term lease. WeWork’s flexible terms, configurable products, and customizable spaces helped the company reduce its costs, minimize its term commitment, and maximize employee flexibility and productivity.
Temporary workspace helps this company decentralize
The problem: A Fortune 500 financial services company needed temporary workspace so their technology and support teams could be close to the traders and bankers at the company’s New York City headquarters. Keeping teams together was important to ensure business continuity in an industry where the speed of data processing and information delivery is crucial. Even though the company wanted teams to sit together, it also needed to reduce the total number of people working at that location.
The solution: WeWork provided the financial company with a two-year, flexible membership agreement on a full-floor office space located near the company’s headquarters. By decentralizing, the company was able to de-densify its headquarters while keeping teams in close proximity to one another.
The result: The company’s tech and support teams now enjoy their own de-densified space at WeWork, plus access to all of the great amenities the locations offer. The firm is now considering extending its terms to maintain its current level of employee flexibility for the duration of the pandemic—and perhaps beyond.
WeWork’s many options for location, space, and term length made it easy for the finance company to quickly and easily decentralize their headquarters without needing to sign a long-term lease or invest in new infrastructure.
An investment bank gets a collaboration hub
The challenge: A global investment bank wanted to supplement their COVID-19 work from home strategy with an intentionally designed office where their employees can feel safe working with colleagues. Like many companies, this firm values in-person collaboration as the foundation of innovation, creativity, and the health of the organization, and it felt the need to find a space where these things could occur safely, despite the pandemic.
The solution: WeWork created a collaboration hub for the firm, a fully customized, intentionally designed office suite. Within the suite is a large, active collaboration zone, a spacious social common area, various meeting spaces, and smaller, quieter places for solo, focused work. All workspaces in the collaboration hub are professionally distanced but designed in such a way that distancing feels natural.
The result: The firm’s flexible collaboration hub enables employees to meet and brainstorm, maintain social relationships with colleagues, and enjoy unplanned encounters that often lead to new ideas. It improves employee engagement and morale and helps the organization maintain its sense of culture and community. While this type of flexible work environment is a good representation of the workplace of the future, this finance firm could eventually go back to the way things were, if it would like, thanks to WeWork’s flexible terms and ability to scale on a dime.
A mobile payment firm de-densifies and doubles its footprint
The challenge: A mobile payment company wanted to provide a safe workspace for their employees to return to for in-person meetings and productive teamwork—and they wanted to do it fast.
The solution: First, the company’s original office suite was professionally de-densified from 135 desks to just 60, and the firm created a staggered return strategy for employees. Then the company added additional space, allowing more workers to transition back to the office at least some days to collaborate in a more professional, focused environment than their home’s dining room table.
The result: In just one week, WeWork nearly doubled the firm’s office footprint. Teams now have a range of workspaces to choose from, including spacious, distanced meeting rooms and common spaces designed for safe social interaction. A month-to-month commitment gives the firm the freedom to create the environment they need, even when things change fast.
WeWork has the scale and flexibility to quickly adapt to a company’s space needs, and the infrastructure in place to make fast turnarounds possible. Anyone—such as global finance companies like fintech startups—can leverage WeWork to create their ideal office space.
Products like WeWork On Demand, All Access, and dedicated office space can be combined in any way and used along with several strategies that help companies across the globe provide safe, productive work environments for their employees.
Kristen Bailey is a veteran writer and editor based in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. She has a penchant for helping large and small brands create stories that tell the why.