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Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence Survey: 66% of Financial Services Leaders Working Remote or Hybrid Would Leave Their Firm if Required to Work in the Office Full Time

Since 2019, Deloitte’s “Within reach” series has explored whether worldwide gender equity in financial services leadership is, indeed, within reach. Today, Deloitte released a new report in this series in collaboration with independent research organization, Workplace Intelligence, examining the experiences and expectations of leaders in large U.S. financial services institutions.

The survey revealed that for both men and women, workplace arrangements are top of mind. Flexibility and the ability to work remotely continue to be highly valued, so much so that most leaders say they’d rather leave their job than go into the office fulltime. This suggests that financial services institutions with strict return-to-office mandates could face the possibility of losing their pipeline of leaders.

The report, “Cultivating employee engagement in financial services,” explores the powerful link between flexible and remote work arrangements and engagement, retention, and other key outcomes. It also considers how U.S. financial services institutions can develop more thoughtful return-to-office policies that support long-term employee engagement.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Strict return-to-office mandates could impact retention. Among leaders surveyed who work remotely at least part of the time, 66% say it’s likely they’d leave their current job if their company required them to return to the office five days a week.
  • Caregivers are more likely to be affected by return-to-offices mandates. Leaders with caregiving responsibilities surveyed were 1.3 times more likely than non-caregivers to say they’d leave their organization if their company eliminated their ability to work remotely.
  • Leaders surveyed prefer flexible work arrangements over prescribed workplace models. Some financial services institutions now require their workforce to go into the office three to four days a week. However, only 18% of respondents say this would be their ideal arrangement.
  • While remote working has improved engagement and well-being, most surveyed leaders believe it will put them at a disadvantage. Among leaders with hybrid work arrangements, 62% of respondents say they would prefer to work remotely more often but feel it would be bad for their career.
  • Financial services institutions may face a shrinking pipeline of future female leaders in the years to come. Almost half (45%) of women respondents in senior leadership roles report being likely to leave their current employer over the next year.

Executives at U.S. financial services institutions should consider these findings a call to action. Working in the office can create a win-win situation for organizations and their employees, but this may not happen as long as return-to-office mandates are likely to be met with resistance.

To address this situation, businesses should make gradual changes to working arrangements and continue to offer employees as much flexibility as possible. Companies should also focus on enhancing the in-office experience and taking steps to ensure that employees are treated equitably no matter where they’re working from.

“This latest report puts timely and relevant data behind the notion that flexibility in workplace arrangements is a driving force in employee engagement,” said Neda Shemluck, U.S. financial services DEI leader and managing director at Deloitte Services LP. “As employers work to establish their in-office policies, it’s important that they carefully examine how to optimize in-person interactions, identify the most suitable tasks for remote work, and empower employees with flexibility. With nearly half of the women respondents in senior leadership roles saying they are likely to leave their current employer over the next 12 months, organizations have an opportunity to build a more dynamic and engaged workforce while attracting, advancing and retaining top talent.”

“Financial services institutions should be immensely concerned that many of their leaders particularly women in senior leadership roles have one foot out the door,” added Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence. “While returning to the office can help organizations achieve their business objectives, companies should do so in a way that doesn’t sacrifice employee engagement and well-being.”