Remote Working: Is it the New Normal?

From traditional office spaces to the BIG changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re taking a look into the history of remote work in the mortgage and finance sectors. With almost 60% of all UK employers offering remote work in 2023, and 44% of employees adopting this working set-up, we wanted to understand how we got here. You might be surprised by some of the numbers!

Defining Remote Work:

First up: hybrid, remote, or flexible? So, remote-working is the undertaking of your job from any location other than your company’s premises. Hybrid working is pretty self-explanatory, as it tends to be a balance between in-office and working from home. Flexible working just refers to any type of work that isn’t full-time, office-based work.

Early Years of Flexible Working:

Generally, the world of work has long been associated with formal office environments and face-to-face interactions. However, as technology started to advance in the 80s, institutions began to experiment with remote work in select capacities. The emergence of digital communication tools and secure networks allowed certain tasks to be performed outside the confines of the traditional office. Still though, it wasn’t super commonplace to have the opportunity to work from home, as you’ll see in the graph. In fact, up until the mid-90s, fully-remote workers made up less than 5% of UK employees.

The Dot-Com Boom’s Influence & FinTech Companies:

The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the dot-com boom, influencing various sectors, including finance. Fintech companies emerged, introducing new solutions that allowed financial professionals to collaborate in a virtual space. The idea of a “virtual office” gained traction, and companies began to explore ways to leverage technology for remote collaboration without compromising security and compliance. As technology became cheaper, more and more households had access to the internet – which in turn lead to an increase in those hoping to ditch the daily commute. 

Flexible Work for Property Experts:

In the property industry, the concept of remote work was initially met with skepticism. Professionals traditionally thrived on in-person interactions, property viewings, and client meetings. The introduction of innovations like virtual tours and online listings hinted at the potential for a more flexible approach to work within this industry.

Technology’s Impact on Mortgage Workflows:

The mortgage industry, too, experienced the impact of technology on traditional work structures. The digitisation of mortgage workflows, online document processing, and the arrival of e-signatures laid the groundwork for remote capabilities. As financial institutions embraced digital transformation, mortgage professionals were able to perform tasks remotely, streamlining processes and improving efficiency.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Flexible Work:

The COVID-19 pandemic was definitely a catalyst for remote work becoming the new-normal. Before the pandemic, a mere 12% of UK workers reported working remotely consistently. However, lockdowns and social distancing measures forced professionals to swiftly adapt, prompting a rapid shift toward digital tools to sustain operations. Notably, a Deloitte survey revealed that 77% of financial institutions expedited their digital transformation efforts in response to the pandemic. By April 2020, a significant 46.6% of employees were engaging in remote work to some extent, as per the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Current Demographics on Remote Working:

According to the Job Description Library, People with a degree are Twice as likely to obtain remote work than those without. 16 – 24 year olds are least likely to be working remotely, with only 30% of the group undertaking remote work. Londoners are more likely to be remote workers than any other UK region, and people in the West Midlands are least likely to pick up remote work. Women are slightly more likely to be working remotely by a margin of just 2%. 80% of the working population earning £50,000 or more either work from home or on a hybrid basis

Changing Perspectives and Global Realities:

As industries adapt, perspectives on remote work are undergoing a profound shift. Financial professionals have realized that many tasks, including mortgage approvals and property evaluations, can be done from a remote setting. The success of remote work during the pandemic not only prompted a reevaluation of traditional office-centric models but also fueled a surge in remote and hybrid roles that we see as recruiters. According to a PwC survey, a staggering 73% of financial services executives are contemplating the permanent implementation of remote work.

On a global scale, 16% of employers now operate on a fully remote basis, with no office or physical workspaces whatsoever. The term “remote jobs” is searched for over 18,000 times per month in the UK on Google, marking a substantial 410% increase over the last five years. However, intriguingly, despite this surge in interest, only 1 in 5 Brits express a desire to work full-time remotely now that pandemic restrictions are just a bad memory from the past. Surveys show that the number of people working exclusively from home in the UK actually decreased by 14% from 2022 to 2023. It appears that the hybrid-working model has proven to be preferential, with 60% of working people believing it to be the most beneficial for them.

It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be:

Despite its advantages, flexible work is certainly not without challenges. Security concerns, regulatory compliance, and the need for effective communication pose ongoing challenges. Innovative solutions, such as blockchain technology for secure transactions and advanced collaboration tools, offer opportunities to overcome these obstacles. But what about the human side of business? Working from home has posed significant challenges for employees, with regards to mental health and wellbeing. While working from home has brought positive changes for some, such as improvements in work-life balance and productivity, the realities for many are far from idyllic: While working from home has brought positive changes for some, such as improvements in work-life balance and productivity, the realities for many are far from idyllic:

  • 29% of people think that working from home is detrimental to their overall health and wellbeing.
  • 67% of workers say that they feel less connected to their colleagues when working from home.
  • 1 in 5 workers struggle with loneliness when working from home.
  • 25% of Brits are working from a bedroom or sofa, and half of those people have developed Musco-skeletal problems 
  • 34% of Brits working at home say that it has placed a strain on relationships with partners and children.
  • More than half of remote workers feel they are working longer and taking less breaks.

So, next time you find yourself a little jealous over the fact your friend never has to go into their office, remember the statistics above, and it might help you feel a little better about that last commute of the week tomorrow morning! At Placing Faces, we all enjoy one work-from-home day per week, but we personally love to be in the office! We feel it helps to coordinate our workflow and allows for things like social-media filming days and other events.

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