Hybrid working: helping businesses stay ahead of the curve - Quorum Park

In the 2nd instalment of our series of articles examining how Quorum Park occupiers are adapting to hybrid working, we spoke to AND-E which owns the black box insurance brand Insure the Box.

The firm consulted with all of its Quorum colleagues before deciding to implement changes to its working model.

While many businesses are calling people back to the office in an attempt to ‘get back to normal’, some, like AND-E, which has a call centre operation at Q11, has made huge investments to accommodate remote working and reaping the benefits of putting in place a more flexible approach.

Head of People and Engagement Gemma Robinson explained: “Before the pandemic, we worked to a traditional arrangement of being office-based, 5 days per week.

“Within two weeks of the initial Covid-19 lockdown, we were fully operational and all working from home. At the time, this was as a major logistical challenge as additional equipment was needed, as well as the set-up of the required IT, but we ensured that the transition was very smooth.”

Head of People Development, Pam Avornyo continued: “From a people development perspective there were lots of challenges, but guidance documents were in place within 48 hours to support team members in addressing communication, performance management, mental health concerns, and ensuring health and safety requirements were able to be met at home.”

Such swift action meant that rather than disrupting business, home working saw productivity increase in certain areas, with more customer calls processed while staff were at home. The leadership team worked hard to engage with staff and avoid any negative impact upon AND-E’s collaborative family culture over the longer term. It was also clear that many people wanted to return to the workplace, many for the good of their mental health, so in October 2020, once Government guidance allowed staff to become office-based once more, they were asked what they wanted to do on a permanent basis.

Gemma said: “Everyone was asked their preference between office-working, home working or a combination of the two, and 68 per cent of the team said they wanted some form of hybrid working. So after some further consultation, we started trialling a weekly model based on two days in the office and three at home.”

But it wasn’t quite as simple as that, explains Head of Facilities, Karolina Mysliwiec: “The hybrid model meant we had too many desks and a refit of the office was needed. We reconfigured everything, which meant removing around 35 per cent of desks and creating new collaboration and breakout areas, including hot desks and both formal and informal meeting areas to suit different needs.

“It’s much more flexible and means no one is sitting on their own, even if their other team members are working from home on the days they’re in the building.”

In addition to the practical changes, multi award-winning AND-E refurbished its Q11 office environment to make it more stimulating and to encourage greater collaboration.

The team now uses a booking programme called Matrix to pre-select their desks for the day, and data is being used to monitor the way different spaces in the office are being used, so changes can be made if needed.

“It’s great”, said Karolina. “People can choose where they’d like to sit, who they want to sit next to, and we’ve had lots of positive feedback from staff who value the flexibility. So far the overriding majority of staff say they’re happy with the current arrangement, but we’re always looking to identify trends and learn from the data.”

As it stands, full-time team members choose a minimum of eight office-based days each month to suit their own needs, and the amenities at Quorum Park have been a big factor in making hybrid working a success for AND-E.

Pam said: “The on-site facilities at Quorum are an important factor. Staff can coordinate their office-based days with when they go to the gym for example and being somewhere so accessible by whatever means of travel necessary, has been a big help for staff.

“There’s no doubt that being based on the park has helped us navigate the challenges of the pandemic. The support provided by the Quorum team in terms of guidance and information to make sure members of the community have what they need is great.”

The additional space created in the building has also put AND-E in a strong position in terms of recruitment as there is plenty of room to accommodate new team members, and if successful candidates can’t make it to the office, their inductions can now be carried out virtually.

Pam continued: “Traditionally, all our training had been classroom based, but thanks to the quick solutions we implemented, and the many changes made, delivery is now just as effective online. Having robust policies for staff development and wellbeing in place really helped us to adapt quickly, and also led to us achieving a gold award in the North East Better Health at Work scheme 2021, and being voted among the 2021 Insurance Post’s top 10 of large insurance employers.”

Training has been so effective that all team members can now assist with any potential evacuation in the event of a fire on site, as a fire warden with the appropriate knowledge must be in the office at all times.

And there’s been no negative impact on customer service, with satisfaction figures having improved throughout the pandemic. Karolina said: “Despite there being an overall reported increase across dissatisfaction factors generally within our industry, during lockdown we saw minimal impact, in fact our key dissatisfaction indicators showed no negative change.”

To find out more about roles on offer at Insure the Box, visit insurethebox.com/job-vacancies. Or to learn more about being part of the Quorum Park community, visit quorumpark.com.