How the pandemic has improved flexibility in the workplace

by Mina Martin14 Jun 2022

If there is one benefit that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was that it accelerated acceptance of various styles of working. This, in turn, had helped those who had to juggle a variety of duties outside the workplace – including women in finance.

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“The opportunity for many people to work from home throughout the pandemic may have helped to dispel myths or reduce scepticism around the nature of flexible work, the types of roles that could be considered flexible, and the influence of ‘presenteeism’ on career progression,” said Natalie Smith, ANZ general manager for retail broker.

This change has been carried over into the post-pandemic working world.

“Most of our employees are now working in a blended way – two to three days per week in the office and two to three days remotely,” Smith said.

Other financial institutions were also taking steps to become more flexible.

“At NAB, we have flexible working hours and a hybrid working environment which enables a smooth return to work for mothers and fathers, as well as focus on equality of pay and paternity leave,” said Lara MacKay, head of NAB broker – Southern region.

This includes supporting flexible work patterns in business relationships.

“We also believe in being flexible to our network, helping support them around some of the difficult hours they have to work to fit in their family and work commitments,” MacKay said. “It’s all about pulling together to make it work in practice and understanding that everyone has their own individual set of circumstances.”

Recognising the benefits flexibility brings to the business helps in achieving higher representation of women in the industry.

“Although we often think of diversity and inclusion in terms of corporate and social responsibility, it’s now well established that there is a clear business case for this – in terms of both profitability and performance,” Smith said. “It’s been my experience that teams with the breadth of thinking, skills, and experience achieved through diversity are better placed to deliver the best customer outcomes.”

Natalie Sheehan, Brighten’s head of distribution, said advocating for positive changes that value families and allow for a more positive work-life balance resulted in a positive flow-on effect for both men and women within the company.

“I strongly believe that involving both men and women in strategic decisions broadens perspectives, increases competencies, adds creativity, drives innovation, and leads to fewer conflicts and ultimately improved outcomes for the firm and its stakeholders,” Sheehan said.

Belinda Wright, head of partnerships and distribution – residential at Thinktank, said the company is also a strong advocate for diversification in all respects, but particularly in the workforce.

“The benefits of having a gender-diverse team are undeniable, as it helps to challenge our team, drive innovation, and empower us,” Wright said.

Women bring many strengths to the table, said Anne Bastian, chief people officer at Liberty, including “emotional intelligence, adaptability, and communication skills.”