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How embracing new business practices during the pandemic has changed the Society.

By Kevin Gray, CEO.

The huge loss of human life that occurred as a result of the Covid pandemic is clear to most of us. What is not so clear is the revolution in working patterns that has taken place. Despite the UK Government’s announcement of ‘Freedom Day’, millions of workers are expected to continue spending more days working from home than in the office and this shift may well be permanent.

I was pleased to hear the Nationwide Building Society announce that they were adopting a policy that would allow their staff to choose where they wanted to work. We at Bath Building Society (BBS) had in fact adopted this very same policy a few weeks before our much larger Swindon based cousin. This change of policy was in response to us proving over 2020 that significant levels of home working could deliver great results. Our real-life experience was backed up by the results of a poll of our colleagues that enquired about on-going working preferences. Colleagues were requested to answer whether they preferred to a) work solely from home b) work solely from the office or c) adopt a hybrid form of working between home and the office. The overwhelming majority of our colleagues voted to adopt a hybrid form of working indicating that the potential to work some time from home is very popular indeed.  Of course, some of our colleagues cannot work effectively from home, typical examples being our Branch-based colleagues or those with poor home Internet speeds or wi-fi capabilities.

Our new policy on home working offers our business many advantages. I personally believe that my own productivity and work/life balance have improved since I have been working from home. Other colleagues state benefits such as being less distracted, being able to spend less/save more etc. Working from home offers us the potential to recruit new colleagues from further afield and to hold on to colleagues whose lives have moved on and who now live substantial distances from Bath. 

Working from home does have its detractors. Certain things just do not work so well when our people are not working physically together. Training of new colleagues is one prime example and building a ‘one team’ spirit is potentially another. In the end we are all human and we like the contact of other human beings. These challenges will have to be overcome by creative solutions and a lot of investment and management focus.

Covid has influenced our business plans and our strategy. Before the virus, Bath Building Society was running out of space at its Head Office in Queen Square, and we were seeking solutions to this problem. In the new world in which we now operate, I estimate that only about 50% of colleagues will be working at Head Office on a daily basis compared with the pre-Covid days. At a stroke this has changed our property plans. We will not now have the need to expand into bigger commercial premises for at least ten years.

The experience of lockdown has supercharged our plans for investing in digital technology. We are now engaged in the biggest programme of business change projects that we have ever undertaken. Working under lockdown conditions did us a favour by shining a light on areas of our business where productivity improvements were badly needed. My hope is that our investment will lay the foundation for a future ‘golden age’.

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