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Remote Working in the Midst of the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on March 2020

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What Impact has the Coronavirus had on the Banking and Finance Sector in Hong Kong?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised COVID-19 as a global emergency. And alongside national health services, it has taken swift and measure steps to limit the spread of the disease. Thankfully, following the last viral epidemic of SARS, technological and healthcare structures have improved significantly. It helped to mitigate the impact and enable organisations to respond swiftly. Businesses across the world like McDonalds and Starbucks decided to close selected locations that were especially vulnerable to the epidemic. Disneyland Shanghai and Macau casinos have also followed suit by closing their vast operations down until the crisis is over. 

While the coronavirus has caught the public and private sector off guard alike, Hong Kong’s banking and financial services firms can—and must—deal with the situation quickly. Firms should protect their operations and mitigate the risk of infection for their employees. This is also true for other businesses in the supply chain, including recruitment agencies that help provide talent for the finance sector.

“During these unprecedented times, our duty as employers and business leaders is ensuring the safety of those we are responsible for, while also navigating and offering solutions to ensure that our business continues to prosper,” comments Abimanu Jeyakumar, Head of Selby Jennings, North Asia.

While Abimanu emphasises the need for all employers to protect their most important resource: people, he believes that most banks and financial services firms already have the working practices and tools they need to do so effectively.

“In Hong Kong, we expect the market to bounce back. We want to make sure that our clients have their most valuable commodity when that occurs: the right people in the right seats,” Abimanu comments. “In practice, that means our clients should utilise technology to offer their employees a seamless work-from-home experience; this includes scaling-up their contingent tech support teams if necessary, and by enabling easy access to key business leaders.”

The WHO has provided resources, information and advice to stress the importance of maintaining the precautionary measures to limit the infection spreading rapidly. It includes regular hand washing, disinfecting surfaces in homes and workplaces and ensuring employees stay at home to self-quarantine themselves. 

Contingency plans for outbreaks such as the coronavirus were already in place with some banking and finance companies around the world. This allows them to provide staff with paid vacations or execute remote working plans. Remote working will enable employees and firms to maintain the same level of productivity. It lessens the impact that the outbreak has on long-term operations. If your business doesn’t have a contingency plan for implementing remote working company-wide, there are ways to fast track the implementation and keep your workforce moving in the face of the global crisis. 

Teleworking and remote working has already witnessed a significant increase in Asian businesses over the past few years. This means resources and tools are abundantly available for companies in an instant. Online collaboration and cloud services are most popular with firms; and video conferencing applications such as Zoom and Skype, have emerged as crucial tools for communication between employees and management. 

Here are four ways to ensure remote working in the banking and finance sector. These can assist the management of employees is a success:

Support from Managers and Superiors

Research has illustrated that success in remote working is increased when line managers and team leaders are on hand to provide support to employees. It’s very easy for employees that may have little confidence or experience in remote working. They begin to feel inadequate or may lack confidence in their role. This is pure because they feel cut off from a support system. And it can be especially important in those employees that make big financial decisions regularly and often have colleagues to discuss with. Regular communication between manager and employees is utterly vital for remote working to be a success. 

Work Planning 

What is each employee responsible when working remotely? Does their job role change when working from the usual office space is not an option? You should always agree on deliverables and necessary tasks from your employees in remote working situations. You can be clear on exactly what you can or cannot provide to your business functionalities. 

In such cases, some employees may be required to take on tasks different from those in normal working conditions. For example, if an employee is predominantly customer-facing in their usual role such as bank cashiers, you could utilise them for data entry or administration tasks in the interim of remote working. You could also use this time for upskilling or ongoing training for those that have fewer ad-hoc responsibilities. 

Utilising Technology 

The banking and finance world have experienced digitalisation more than most other sectors. Hence, sub-standard or unreliable technology will prove your worst enemy in periods of remote working. A slow internet connection, old computer systems and various other similar situations can reduce productivity massively. Similarly, using software not suitable for your business functions can be equally as diminishing to your workforce. Agree in advance on who is to use which equipment, tools and services. 

You should also ensure your business has access to suitable software’s that enable things like video meetings, document sharing and instant messaging. You may find this useful once your workforce returns to normal business operations and see a long-term improvement in collaboration between employees.

Communication is Key

While it may sound like a cliche, it’s still true! Similar to the first point communication between the business and its employees is vital. But, not necessarily always about working functions. Proactively making regular welfare checks and calls with your staff will increase their morale and confidence in the company. It’s honest, admirable and it will not go unnoticed in the industry. Your company is making the extra effort to ensure your staff are well looked after both in terms of work and their personal lives. 

The coronavirus outbreak will significantly impact the banking and finance sector of Hong Kong. However, by taking the measures above and implementing remote working, you can reduce this impact massively. Your employees will feel valued, safe and considered. At the same time, your business will continue to be productive in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, and you can ultimately avoid a costly period of inactivity.

Get in touch for expert advice

In challenging times, it is more important than ever to manage your most effective resource: people. Benefit from expert advice, get in touch with us to discuss how to attract and retain banking and financial services talent.  

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