The Post Pandemic Workplace

Making Lemonade From Lemons

How Legal & General saw Covid reshape the future of work

by Heather Andrews

Ms. Andrews sponsors Legal & General’s (L&G) Future of Work program and is Director of Employee Experience at L&G, the U.K.’s leading life insurer managing over $2 trillion in assets globally. 

Editor’s Note: We asked a number of companies, agencies and marketing companies how they responded to the pandemic’s impact on their operations, and what they learned from the experience. This is the first in a series of articles examining post-pandemic strategy for moving forward.

While government has eased up on masking and social distancing mandates, as a society we’re returning to life and work with a fundamentally-changed mindset. As employers who take health concerns and risks as seriously for our workers as for our clients, insurers and asset managers need to establish policies for coming back to the office that work both for their business and for their employees on multiple levels. Beyond instilling new rules and protocols, we think it’s possible to use the lessons and outcomes of the pandemic as an opportunity to catalyze change in the way we work at a more fundamental level. This includes looking at what it means to be human, and what environments can be created so that we are at our best. Here we’d like to lay out some of the changes we’re seeing—and enacting—in our U.S. workplaces and ways of working.

While insurance and asset management are fundamentally businesses about pricing risk, it is very much founded in relationships. Workers need to stay connected with one another, and historically they’ve preferred face-to-face interactions with their customers, as well. When Covid-19 forced us to close our U.S. offices in March 2020, we were only vaguely aware of the consequences that would ensue from changing this intrinsic reality. With virtually all our work operations being conducted from home, we worked quickly to make sure our workers had the technology and equipment support they needed. It rapidly became apparent that technology was only a small part of what needed to change.

Throughout the pandemic, the safety and the wellbeing of our people have remained our top priority, and this has fueled a complete retooling of our approach to work: not only whether we work at home or in the office, but how we work at our best, and why.

Since reopening our offices in the U.S., we’ve seen large numbers of people return voluntarily to work in them. We’ve seen our people come back for many reasons: to collaborate, meet up with colleagues and customers, socialize and have fun, undertake training and development, or simply because they want to get out of the house. Whatever their reason, it’s brought the ‘buzz’ back to the office again and re-energized us after time spent apart.

What has changed? At the most basic levels, we’re deep cleaning on site every day, and asking our people to work from home if they’re feeling ill. But it’s far more than that. We’ve re-imagined our workplaces in response to how the pandemic has changed our ways of working, but this is more than simply implementing a hybrid model. We’ve used the pandemic pause to create, and radically re-think, an environment where working from anywhere is supported.

We’ve seen our people come back for many reasons: to collaborate, meet up with colleagues and customers, socialize and have fun, undertake training and development, or simply because they want to get out of the house...

At The Heart Of It: People

We’ve put people at the heart of this Future Workplace design, creating spaces that are sustainable and that support the health and wellbeing of our workforce. We encourage conversations with managers when people are feeling anxious or overwhelmed in the office or at home. We’ve also invested in enhanced technology that enables us to be more efficient and to collaborate better, whether we’re in-person or virtual. We are finding that this choice of settings, where teams are empowered to choose how and where they work best, helps create a better overall experience for our people.

The old adage ‘build it and they will come’ resonates deeply when the people who will be using the space are the first consideration. For example, in our offices in Stamford, Chicago and Frederick, MD we’ve brought in more collaboration, social and wellbeing spaces to support our people, and invested in technology that can help us work more efficiently and better serve our customers wherever we are, whether at home or in the office.

The redesign of our Stamford, CT office reinforces the approach we’ve taken at Legal & General to actively participate in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. The interior space hinges on an open office concept with multiple huddle rooms allowing for effective collaboration between team members. The design puts ergonomics first, as the space is equipped with hoteling desks and pathways that are wheelchair accessible, a wellness room for new mothers, prayer and meditation space, quiet rooms for those who need silence to focus, and all workspaces with desks that can be used standing or sitting.

Comfortable and pleasant outdoor space (see photo below) is available as well, for less formal meetings or simply blowing off steam. The purpose of these features is to provide employees with a safe space and the comfort they need to perform their best while working at the office. It also promotes the importance of equity and unity, where everyone is given equal choice in the manner they wish to work, and the message that they are accepted.

Outdoor space at Legal & General’s Stamford, CT office.

Rebuilding The Office & Reshaping The Business

In Chicago, the redesign of our office emphasizes the latest in technology to help connect us to our colleagues and customers across the US and internationally. We’ve installed 18 Microsoft Teams Rooms equipped with touch-screen panels, TVs and cameras for mixed-mode meetings, and smart boards on wheels to move throughout office and take digital notes and send to Microsoft Teams and/or Outlook.

The office is also designed to help encourage sustainable behaviors. Our ample employee kitchen area (see photo below) makes it easy to recycle and use less packaging. Other office implementations include decreasing paper usage through technology and gentle, technologically enhanced reminders to turn off lights when rooms aren’t in use. We’ve included ample recycling points and have been welcoming all our employees back with the gift of a reusable water bottle.

Our Frederick, MD insurance division, long-established in the US, has been continually enhancing and rebuilding our office space with a focus on the wellbeing of our people and our business. Our current work environment is hybrid with more than 70% of colleagues in the office periodically. While in the office, sidewalks and footpaths allow for scenic walks around the campus as well as a gym for other fitness activity. With a focus on teamwork and camaraderie, collaboration rooms have been added throughout the building, as well as a lounge area in the cafeteria and a picturesque courtyard for fresh air.

Inclusion initiatives are also at the forefront of our office space, with dedicated wellness rooms for new mothers, prayer and meditation. We host a number of wellness and social initiatives such as our annual walking challenge, our Gardenuity events and most recently, in honor of Earth Day, we planted more than 1,200 trees in our colleagues’ names. Our future of work is blending how people work, where they work and developing a culture where people can thrive.

In Conclusion

Overall, our focus in both the short and long term is on a future of work for Legal & General that promotes wellbeing for our people. We’ve seen that putting our people first ensures that our business is resilient. We believe that our workplaces help make us attractive as an employer, both in the U.S. and abroad. Bottom line, we understand in a post-pandemic world that people prefer the flexibility of working from home. Therefore, our offices have given our employees a work environment where they can truly feel at home.