Working out how we work

Two incredible things have happened these past weeks.

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Firstly, my husband and I sent our two teenagers back to school after 7-months of home schooling - while I’ll miss our lunchtime walks I’m so happy for them to be back with their friends.

"We believe, for the vast majority of roles at ANZ, given the nature of the work these roles involve, our people will be able to split their time between working from an ANZ workplace and working from home.”

Secondly, I was able to tell the vast majority of ANZ’s 48,000 employees they’ll have access to a level of flexibility the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

2020 has been a really tough year for many people and businesses and we’ve seen first-hand the impact this has had on many of our customers. But there are some small yet important positives from this extraordinary year. Critically, one was the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learnt as many of us have rapidly shifted from working in the office to working remotely

These are challenging and exciting times in thinking about the structure of work, given the importance of how we work on our employee value proposition at ANZ.

We formally introduced our flexible work arrangements policy globally in 2015 so flexible working has been part of our culture for a few years. Yet there was no precedent for earlier this year when 90 per cent of our workforce, close to 43,000 people, moved to working from home in the space of a few days and weeks.

That’s certainly what I’d call an acceleration. It helped sharpen our views and challenge our assumptions on where, how and when people do their work.

There is a balance we’ll need to strike in enabling more of our people to work flexibly while remaining focused on our strategy to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers and ensure we retain all of the terrific elements of our culture at ANZ.

There is no clear, final picture of how we’ll work but some elements are clear: employee input is vital. And we’ll need to test and learn as we go.

My colleagues on the ANZ Executive Committee and I aren’t pretending to have all the answers, instead we’re connecting with our people to understand their challenges, as well as their wants and needs when it comes to how we work.

In May and June, we ran a series of pulse surveys and more than 90 per cent of our people said they felt productive while working at home. In June, we ran a company-wide ‘Big Retro’ on our enterprise social network Yammer to reflect on what we do well and what we need to do differently. Employees from 24 of the 33 markets in which we operate globally participated. We heard:

  • Embracing technology (we’ve been busy rolling out Microsoft Teams) is helping teams connect and collaborate; and
  • People are missing that sense of connection and ‘creative combustion’ that comes with being in the office.

More recently, in September, we held a ‘Big Conversation’, again on Yammer. We invited all employees to join a four-day conversation about how they’d like to work in the future. We asked for their ideas and feedback on what our workplaces should look like, the tools and technology we’ll need to do our best work, and how we’ll stay connected to our purpose and culture. During this we asked people to vote in a series of polls:

  • Firstly we asked people, if they were to split their time between home and the ANZ workplace, how many days would they like to spend at each? 70 per cent of people said they’d spend around 2-3 days in the office per week.
  • When we asked those people what they would spend their time doing when in an ANZ workplace, 63 per cent said they’d prefer to spend that time on collaborative tasks, like planning or gathering around a whiteboard.

Needless to say, this is a very truncated version of the rich insights we’ve gathered from our people but the point is whatever the future looks like, we’ll need to shape it together. We’ll need to keep adapting and evolving as we learn more and as the world changes.

What’s next?

ANZ operates in 33 markets around the world so it’s important we recognise everyone’s work situation is not identical and the pandemic is still causing a lot of disruption. We’re being deliberate about our future now so when people are in a position to start returning to the workplace, they have more clarity on what this will look like. 

Last week, ANZ Deputy CEO Alexis George and I held a webcast with employees to let them know how we’re responding to their feedback and what’s next for us.

We focused on two key things we want to get started on this year:

  • We believe for the vast majority of roles at ANZ, given the nature of the work these roles involve, our people will be able to split their time between working from an ANZ workplace and working from home – roughly 2-3 days of each per week. Rather than imposing rules to outline how this will work, we’ll be supporting and empowering teams to test, learn and determine what works best for them.    
  • To make sure our people can setup a safe and comfortable home office we’re offering to reimburse people who are able to work from home (up to a capped amount) to purchase their own ergonomic chair and a monitor. This is in addition to the usual technology we provide, like a laptop, headset, keyboard and mouse. Our intent is to do this for all our employees globally and we’re working hard to roll it out as quickly as we can.

This is one step forward in what we’re seeing as an ongoing evolution of how we work – an evolution that is cultural as much as it is structural.

We don’t see this initiative as having an end date, more an ongoing adaptation to a world that is constantly changing and increasingly distributed.

This is just the start of the conversation for us at ANZ.

Kathryn van der Merwe is Group Executive Talent & Culture at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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