Legal and General commits to a new 120,000 sq foot Cardiff office, and a new way of working.
In March 2020, when government restrictions asked the Welsh workforce to set up at home, Legal and General was better placed than most to adapt to the change, as around 40% of its 2,000-strong South Wales workforce already enjoyed some flexibility with working from home.
In addition to already enabling nearly half its staff to work remotely at least one day a week, the finance and insurance giant had already undertaken a working from home pilot across the organisation earlier in the year after hearing reports of a potential national lockdown.
Heather Andrews, director of employee experience at Legal and General, said:
“We have an office in Hove and that was one of the first places in the UK to be affected by the virus. Based on what we could see happening there, we made the decision to conduct an early IT infrastructure test in order to see how well our people could adapt to working from home.
Legal and General’s IT systems proved robust and functioned well, despite not being built for 100% remote working.
“We did experience challenges, of course. This resulted in a small number of people working in our offices where their roles could not be done at home, for example in our post rooms and the scanning team, so we could continue to serve our customers.
“I would say that 90% of our workforce managed well working from home, while about 10% struggled due to environmental issues, like living in a multi-occupancy household or having to work while the children were home from school. The office was there for those who weren’t coping at home, and we made sure we had all the COVID-19 safety measures in place to keep people safe.
Heather and her team also acknowledged that communication was critical throughout the pandemic response. She said:
“When you aren’t together physically, you have to lead in a different way, and this was new for managers. To help them, we created support pages on our intranet, which focused on coaching and providing useful resources while working remotely.
Legal and General also invested in its team’s health and mental well-being during lockdown through the promotion of an app called ‘Unmind’, which all the workforce could access.
The app enables individuals to invest in their mental health on a daily basis. Those who needed additional support could turn to Legal and General’s mental health first-aiders.
“It’s important to us that people can be who they are at work. We aim to be a very inclusive workplace and that didn’t change just because people were working from home. We wanted to help support our people through difficult moments and challenges they might be facing. For instance, we knew that a number of employees couldn’t travel to be with their families to celebrate religious festivals, so we did our best to celebrate these with them instead.
In the middle of the first lockdown, Heather and her team began to consider the way forward for Legal and General in terms of its work from home arrangements.
“We realised things were going to change for the long-term. People were enjoying spending more time with their family, no-one missed the commute, and the flexibility offered by a better work-life balance was clearly making a difference to quality of life. On the other hand, there’s no question that collaboration and connection is often better when you are all together. There’s also the important spontaneous discussions that just can’t happen over Teams, which I think we all miss. That’s why we are moving to hybrid model where we expect our employees to split their time equally between the office and home.
In 2021, Legal and General will mark its 25th anniversary in the city of Cardiff. Well before the pandemic, plans were already in place to re-home the business in a new 120,000 sq foot office in the capital’s Central Square.
Legal and General’s leadership team is still 100% committed to the move, which will happen in 2023, and has signed a 25-year lease, but ideas of how the space will look have changed, as a result of what has been learned during the pandemic.
“The new office will be designed to accommodate a new way of working, with an emphasis on wellness and employee experience when people are on site. Our focus will be on creating an environment that enables people, and we have started to envision that now in collaboration with our Cardiff-based teams.
“We need to be thoughtful and purposeful about how we come together after this. We have to get the balance right, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“Changing the way we work won’t happen overnight. Our new model may still require tweaks and adjustments, as we learn how to navigate a new way of working, but I’m confident this move to a hybrid model will provide great opportunities for our people and our business.