By Jonathan Hall, General Manager and Director - Canada Life International

In just a few short weeks our working and personal lives were turned upside down following the outbreak of the global pandemic and resulting lockdown.

As an employer providing financial services we were deemed an essential service so could have opted to continue working from the office with the correct safety procedures in place. However, good technology has enabled us to not only continue providing a service to advisers and their clients from a remote environment – home – but also to be as productive and in some cases more so than pre-lockdown.

As we plan our return to the office we face many challenges but are also presented with a unique opportunity. And we are not rushing back. Not only do we need to adhere to guidelines but also recognise individual colleague’s anxiety about a return to the physical office.  The next stage of our plan is to increase the number of people we have in the office by bringing back around 25% of colleagues while also observing one metre social distancing rules, so not only will the office still feel pretty empty, but we are a long way from a return to any ‘normal’. As part of Canada Life UK we are also a very helpful test bed for our return to office strategy for the rest of our offices across the UK!

The past few months has shown us that trusting colleagues to get the job done can not only boost productivity, but equally important create an increasing sense of loyalty.  As you might expect we’ve been keen to find out how colleagues feel about working from home. At the last check-in, four out of five colleagues said they feel well-equipped, confident and supported to work virtually.

So where does that leave us when thinking about the physical office environment? Just because we can now all return doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The majority of our people don’t expect and don’t want to return to five days per week in the office. Any assumptions about how we utilise the office space should be discarded, as the old model of working which we were all familiar with now feels very dated.

Can we learn things from other industries about how best to use the office space? Culturally that may not be a natural fit with a financial services business, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the best experiences from other sectors to see how we might create a dynamic work environment, both physically and virtually.