Pattie Lovett-Reid: How to manage work-life balance during the pandemic
Bank of Montreal anticipates that as much as 80 per cent of its staff -- or about 36,000 employees -- may adopt new flexible arrangements that blend working from home with going into the office even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
The virus prompted the bank to make a sweeping reappraisal of workplace policies, according to Mona Malone, chief human resources officer. She said the lender expects that 30 per cent to 80 per cent of employees may continue to work from home at least some of the time. The Toronto-based bank employed about 45,000 people as of Jan. 31.
“We’ve been able to maintain continuity of banking services with far more people working outside the office than we ever thought possible,” Malone said Monday in an interview. “We thought it was critical that we were in the office to make something happen, and what we’ve proven through this is that’s actually not the case.”
Chief Executive Officer Darryl White has said “a 2.0 version” of the workplace may include the blended home-and-office arrangements, as big employers worldwide reconfigure offices and routines. Malone said Canadian and U.S. branch employees have “by and large” been going into work during the crisis along with a “small amount” of technology and operations employees, while 95 per cent of those in office towers have been working from home.
About two-thirds of the firm’s employees are in Canada, while 13,408 are in the U.S. and 1,578 overseas. The post-Covid plan involves more workers at home including “a ton” of employees with hybrid office-and-home roles, and fewer people working solely at company locations, Malone said.
“It’s a blended approach of thinking about productivity and flexibility and for us not a return to the way it used to be,” she said. “It’s about an evolution in the way that we work.”
As with many companies worldwide, Covid-19 has already upended much of the workforce of Canada’s fourth-largest bank. For example, call-center agents initially went into offices at the start of the outbreak. Then in the past month, the bank shifted half of its Canadian call-center staff and 80 per cent of its U.S. agents to home offices.
“That’s not a temporary thing,” Malone said. “We don’t have to think about contact centers as just these geographical hubs, and we can use this remote way of working.”
The work-from-anywhere trend helps keep employees safe, Malone said. Crowding workers into office towers while dealing with mass transit, elevators and social distancing is “problematic.” She added that the new approach can also present recruitment possibilities.
“It allows us to look for new talent in locations where maybe we haven’t before, and tap into talent pools across the country,” she said.
The bank has already seen unexpected benefits in deal-making, as investment bankers use time once spent on commuting to communicate with clients. One investment banker in New York expressed surprise that “doing pitches virtually” has been a success, Malone said.
“It’s causing this person who’s 25 years an investment banker to rethink what’s possible,” she said.