As NAB prepares to report on its 1H21 Financial Results, Chief Operating Officer Les Matheson reflects on work over the past six months to welcome colleagues back to commercial offices and transition to hybrid working.
As the Australian economy continues to recover, it’s encouraging to see the signs of improvement around us from the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.
Our recent monthly business survey shows business conditions are at a record high. Anecdotally, we’re seeing local businesses in CBDs reopen, including those around our nine commercial buildings in Australia. While most of our customers are back on track, some sectors and communities are still hurting, and we continue to be here to support those who need our help.
The resilience of our customers and colleagues to overcome has been vital in getting us to this point.
As a bank, we’ve adapted and flexed in different ways, too, and have learnt some important lessons along the way:
Our colleagues can serve customers well from anywhere in Australia: Within a matter of weeks, we were able to mobilise 85 per cent of colleagues to work remotely - many who’d never done so before - including our call centre teams. They showed incredible resilience and ingenuity, without compromising on productivity. In fact, more than 83 per cent of colleagues felt their productivity had improved during the pandemic. As our buildings have reopened, the majority are transitioning to a hybrid model of working, with time split between the office and home.
Hybrid working is good for our customers and colleagues: We learnt quickly how well technology could enable teams to work remotely and help uncover new ways to connect with customers. We used online chat, held Zoom meetings and reskilled parts of the workforce and diverted them into customer-facing roles during periods of high demand. Hybrid working has also provided a greater degree of flexibility and helped colleagues to better balance their work and personal commitments. We have become a more agile organisation, which has translated into greater flexibility for customers (in how they bank with us) and for colleagues (in how we work together).
The office remains an important place for collaboration, culture and learning: While we’ve learnt to collaborate remotely in incredible ways, the power of face-to-face connection, learning from others and culture building has been a huge benefit of returning to the office. Most NAB colleagues are now working from the office about 2-3 days per week and coming together for team meetings, strategy sessions and to solve customer problems. Days at home are often spent on focussed or individual work. Whether it’s the home, office or elsewhere, where we work will likely be driven by where our customers need us most.
Transitioning to hybrid working takes time and support: As we transition to a hybrid way of working, we know this will take some getting used to. We’ve provided regular people leader webinars - initiated and scaled up during the pandemic - and handbooks to provide leaders with the tools to embed these new work rhythms. It’s not going to be perfect straight away and leaders need to remain patient and supportive.
Hybrid working is new for most of us, so we’ll continue to test and learn along the way. As we do this, we’ll take the best of what we’ve learnt over the past year, to create something even better for our customers and colleagues.
In a special NAB Health Wellbeing Insight report, our research showed that on balance, working from home has been an extremely positive experience for most people, and ideally Australians wish to do so even more in the future, despite some concerns around loneliness, loss of informal interactions and the challenges of balancing work and home life.