How Chief Operating Officers can adapt physical offices to staff needs
Tara McCloskey, Managing Director, MetLife Investment Management, shares her views on how to adapt to mismatched office size and staffing levels when operating hybrid work schemes.
Fund Operator Editor POSTED ON 11/2/2022 9:41:52 AM
The post-pandemic office real estate and facilities issue is one that many chief operating officers will know about. Tara McCloskey, Managing Director, MetLife Investment Management, says that many have had to deal with underutilised and overbuilt offices, prompting the question: How can they be used productively?
"As much as we complained about being home, it was an easy time to not have to commute. Returning to the office was a big change and people adjusted to their time away.”
Clear Path Analysis’s October 2022 report, “The Post-Pandemic Office: Operations, Technology, Outsourcing & Managed Services in the Investment Management Industry,” covers these issues with industry leaders at companies such as abrdn, SS&C | Advent, Mackay Shields LLC, and MetLife Investment Management.
“When we came back [to the office after lockdown] it was all about the employee experience and making them excited to be back in the office,” she said. “As much as we complained about being home, it was an easy time to not have to commute. Returning to the office was a big change and people adjusted to their time away from home and their commutes.”
This was not a unique problem, but it did need a creative solution. According to a 2021 Pwc study, remote workers are as productive or more productive than office workers, however, companies found that dealing with more dispersed workforces made managers daily tasks more difficult to accomplish. Evaluating employees, improving performances, and developing teams is more complicated when individuals are not in the same location.
"We talked with people about what days they were comfortable coming in, and we understood that childcare situations had changed. It was a collaborative experience.”
McCloskey said her office offered free food for a long period of time and held events that highlighted the positives about in-office collaboration and communication. She found that people were excited to gather and catch up after such a long time apart.
“We talked with people about what days they were comfortable coming in, and we understood that childcare situations had changed. So, it was a collaborative experience with the manager and the associates to try and make sure that we could find a common ground for each team,” McCloskey said.
One aspect that proved successful with staff reintegration into office life was having set days where people scheduled to come into the workplace. This was beneficial because the company wanted employees to have flexibility and meet on the most convenient days.
There were also obvious logistical changes to both staff numbers and capacity in the office – which is an ongoing concern for many as headcounts continue to change, particularly for those with expensive real estate in major cities.
“We had to re-stack our whole building because over two years there was a tremendous change in staffing,” she said. “There was a large number of technology changes so restocking our desktops workstations was a large undertaking.”
One element that contributed to success was assigning seats to specific people and only giving give ‘hot desks’ to those who work virtually.
Purposeful office work
However, it has proved a challenge to convince staff who still work largely from home that in-office days are necessary. This is why, McCloskey said, encouraging purposeful meeting occasions and times has become essential.
“When you are in an office, there are lots of community groups and sponsored groups,” said McCloskey. “When we came back to the office, we tried to showcase the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) groups and re-introduce them to make a community. We had all kinds of raffles that we were offering to get people to come down and be together if they felt comfortable.”
“I have seen groups where they are across the US and all home office based as opposed to being in a physical location and it has worked well. We’ve had good responses from that."
This, she added, was useful in terms of showcasing how offices could be best utilised for purposeful work. “We’ve had some groups that are in different locations [and] each group has work-from-home staff, but they often want to bring the whole team together, so they have workshops and utilise some of the larger conference rooms.”
To do this, McCloskey said, they have several days of sessions where people get to know each other, have trainings or focused groups or focused areas of strategy that they want to work on.
“I have seen this with some groups where they are across the US and all home office based as opposed to being in a physical location and it has worked well. We’ve had good responses from that,” she said.
To read the report in full, please click here.
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