What's it like to move five thousand staff to remote working? - Business Leader News

What’s it like to move five thousand staff to remote working?

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For many businesses, working from home is now the ‘new normal’. Gary Fletcher (pictured), managing director for the South, Gallagher Insurance, Risk Management and Consulting, provides insight into how the business effectively transitioned to a fully remote workforce, while maintaining continuity of client service.

With the UK in lockdown, many employers, like us, are having to operate and manage a completely remote workforce for the first time.

Although we already had small numbers of employees working remotely, successfully enabling our 5,000-strong workforce, across 70 offices in the UK, to work from home full-time, without any loss of productivity and deliver a ‘business as usual’ service to clients was no mean feat – but one that we managed to achieve in under a week.

When it became clear in February that COVID-19 was likely to reach the UK, our business contingency team were well-prepared to take rapid action if required, thanks to the fact we had robust and tested business continuity plans in place.

At the start of March, we asked colleagues to undertake a company-wide working from home stress test to ensure we had sufficient connectivity for all colleagues to work remotely if required. This eased the pressure on the internal IT support team, so the any issues were drip-fed through to them to sort in advance, and for any necessary equipment to be ordered.

As the situation unfolded, we mirrored the UK Government advice and asked our colleagues to work from home when it was clear that we were heading into a lockdown situation. In a matter of weeks, working remotely has become the ‘new normal’ for our business, with our colleagues adapting quickly to an entirely new working environment.

Insurance is very much a relationship-based business, but technology is playing a huge part in enabling us to maintain important client contact. We’ve encouraged the use of video systems when interacting with our clients to ensure minimal disruption to normal service.

As well as business as usual activity, such as managing insurance renewals, our teams have also been busy with claim settlements, negotiating lower premiums due to changes in business circumstances and processing amendments to respond to our clients’ changing practices – with all meetings held virtually.

Technology has also enabled our teams to function as normal and stay connected during the pandemic. Team catch-ups are now being conducted via video-conference, allowing important updates to be shared and ideas to be discussed in the way they usually would. We’ve even held virtual quizzes across different divisions which have fostered colleague camaraderie.

We recognise that many of our clients are facing financial hardship in these uncertain times, and understand it is imperative that we maintain open lines of communication to help them understand the insurance and risk implications. We’ve put together a pandemic resource hub on our website, with advice on topics ranging from remote working to the Government support measures, as well as FAQs on how their insurance is likely to be affected as a result of the pandemic.

We’ve also been actively sharing these resources directly with clients as part of regular communications being issued. Additionally, we recently held the first in a series of webinars, which focused on legal implications for businesses that may arise out of COVID-19, which was very well-received by clients.

Internally, we’ve really focused on issuing regular communications to staff to keep our people informed and motivated. Our leaders across the business have been recording video messages, sending regular emails and even taking selfies at their desks at home to stay connected with teams.

We know remote working can be challenging for some colleagues to adjust to, depending on their circumstances – so we’ve encouraged flexible working, where possible, to allow colleagues to juggle personal and family commitments with work, including the option of working reduced hours.

With travel restrictions in place, we’ve also relaxed our holiday policy to ensure that colleagues can take a well-earned break at a time convenient for them. Although we’re encouraging employees to take holidays now if they wish, we aren’t enforcing any kind of quota, and colleagues can now carry over increased holiday to 2021.

The shift to remote working is always going to bring new challenges for an organisation – especially in such unprecedented circumstances. However, we’ve found that a continued emphasis on staying connected has been key to maintaining high levels of client service and providing them with advice, insights and solutions to navigate these uncertain times, as well as strengthening team cohesion and boosting morale, as our colleagues adapt to a new reality.