No going back!

No going back!

As 62% of NCB Group team members work from home, HR head says policy is here to stay

Observer Business Writer

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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Since the advent of COVID-19 in Jamaica in early March, the relatively foreign concept of work from home (WFH) became a reality for many companies as they tried to limit exposure for staff and clients to the novel coronavirus.

Nearly eight months later, several companies have declared that WFH will become a staple of their operations as operational gaps and enhanced efficiencies become apparent.

Prior to the pandemic, flexible work arrangements and other modalities of work were rare tools in the belt of many companies. However, the pandemic has challenged the status quo and resulted in a total transformation of the work environment.

As a result, several large corporate firms have finalized WFH policies which will become a permanent fixture of their way of doing business.

One such local company is the NCB Financial Group (NCBFG) which currently has 62 per cent of its staff working from home across its many entities.

In an Observer Business Forum on Monday, head of the NCB Group Human Resources and Facilities Division, Euton Cummings, said the WFH measure was implemented to protect critical stakeholders of the NCB Group including team members and clients and to ensure there wouldn't be a massive disruption in the ability to deliver services to customers.

Apart from moving more transactions to the digital channel, NCB also purchased more than 2,000 laptops to support their staff members, and the company also identified the necessary mechanisms to support the transition to WFH.

But, has the change to WFH been successful for the NCB Group?

“Since we started the WFH policy, we at NCB have noticed a massive change. Productivity among our team members has risen quite substantially with our employee engagement score rising from 59 per cent to 82 per cent, and that is four years ahead of our planned target.

“Our WFH situation has been supported by constant communications by the performance leaders who meet weekly to coordinate on helping teams to pivot. There has also been a massive push to reduce paper use with the group's Human Resource Department which no longer uses paper. This has yielded massive savings for the company and improved efficiency,” Cummings said in the Observer Business Forum.

Even with fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic dampening profits, Cummings said that NCBJ has not laid off a single member of staff because of the pandemic and that the redundancy exercise done in July was a part of the overall business strategy.

”NCBJ has also paid its early childhood centre staff every week, even though restrictions were imposed by the Government on such places of gathering.

“If a staff member tested positive or was impacted by a lockdown measure, such as the one in April, NCBJ continued to pay those staff members until they were able to return to work, depending on their role. NCBJ has even assisted some members of staff transition to other roles, once they were no longer able to carry out their normal duties.

“In some cases where employees are not able to do the job that they were employed to do as a result, some of those persons have been able to pivot to do other jobs,” Cummings said.

This has led to the group declaring that they will never have a full office as they'll never go back to the old way of doing things. Due to this, the group is now optimising its space usage by placing computers and other equipment in the Atrium (headquarters), in spaces which were previously occupied by filing cabinets. There is even some consideration to renegotiate leases and even sell some assets since the group's expenses for its branch footprint will go down with less occupancy by general staff members.

Apart from the NCB Group, Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited had nearly 80 per cent of its staff working from home during the early stages of the pandemic, while Scotia Group Jamaica has maintained a stance that staff wouldn't return to the headquarters for 2020 with deliberations ongoing to determine who should return in 2021.

Several other corporate companies have stated that WFH has brought about savings and allowed for greater efficiency in costs and operations.

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