The Hybrid Working Series Part One: How Can A Contractor Best Integrate Themselves In A Work From Home Environment?

2023-07-21 |  Clare Allen

Contracting in Financial Services in 2023: The Hybrid Working Series

Welcome to the first in a series of articles on the subject of contracting in financial services. At a time when remote and hybrid working is more popular than ever, we take a closer look at how these dynamics affect clients and contractors across the industry.

In financial services, contractors have traditionally been engaged to plug a skills gap, or to provide specific subject matter expertise. They are normally paid a premium which is designed not only to compensate them for lack of stability in this short-term role, but also to reward them for ‘hitting the ground running’ and making an immediate impact. Contractors aren’t expected to need much time to settle in; they’re supposed to be capable, assertive, and have fantastic interpersonal and influencing skills. 

All of the above is arguably simple if you spend most days in a client’s office and can build relationships quickly. But how does hybrid working affect a contractor’s ability to make an immediate impact? 

Here at PEN, clients tend to require contractors to be in the office two or three times per week on average, though they tend to be fairly flexible. Here’s what was said when we asked some of our long-term contractors about this topic:

“It’s much harder to get key stakeholders to spend time with me when they don’t know who I am and haven’t met me in person”.
“If I have a tech issue I have to wait ages to work out how to get it sorted”.
“I’m a financial services Project Manager but I haven’t specifically worked in asset management before. Working on a hybrid basis, there’s a lack of organic opportunities to become a sponge and soak up what’s happening in front of me”.

The overarching message from contractors working on a remote or hybrid basis is that it’s tougher to create relationships, collaborate, and have an impact. They have to become more tenacious, and really develop and hone their influencing skills to get stuff done. And if that wasn’t enough, they also have to persuade key people to make time for them. So what’s the answer to this?

The answer appears to be going into the office more frequently (at least at the start of the contract) to build those all-important relationships. However, this can of course be tricky when permanent employees of your client are only in the office once or twice per week, so co-ordination is key here.

Another concern that some of our contractors have mentioned is that by working remotely, the risk of isolation is higher. This isn’t exclusively experienced by contractors, but the very nature of the work can mean that contractors embrace change more readily than a permanent employee might. They can work well when surrounded by buzz and energy, and thrive off others’ dynamism. For many, these are some of the compelling reasons to embrace the life of a contractor, which involves more frequent changes and an ability to quickly immerse oneself in a new company’s culture. As such, the isolation of remote or hybrid working may therefore have an increasingly negative impact on contractors.

There is also a risk of unmonitored performance, leading to nasty surprises for contractors when working from home. The client is less likely to check in on a daily basis and, in many cases, feedback isn’t as quick as a contractor may like. Prompt, direct feedback can lead to an immediate change in behaviour and performance improvement, so is particularly crucial in the world of contracting. Contractors therefore need to proactively seek out feedback when working remotely.

Working as a remote or hybrid-working contractor in the current landscape comes with a unique set of challenges. As such, it is all the more important for them to build those working relationships, and be tenacious about spending time with the key people they need to collaborate with.