Manulife CEO Gori Says Remote Work Is ‘Incredibly’ Effective

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Manulife Financial Corp. Chief Executive Officer Roy Gori isn’t in a hurry to bring the insurer’s employees back to the office, and when he does, they’ll still have plenty of flexibility to work from home.

The company hasn’t set a date to bring workers back, and it will continue to allow them to perform some portion of their jobs from home, Gori said. While the office is important for creativity and innovation, Manulife has managed to keep employees engaged and productive while working from home thanks to investments in technology and an emphasis on meeting workers’ needs, Gori said.

“We’re not in a huge hurry to get people back,” Gori said in an interview Wednesday. “The current environment of having people work remotely is working incredibly effectively for us.”

Manulife CEO Gori Says Remote Work Is ‘Incredibly’ Effective

Financial firms’ plans to return workers to the office have been varied. JPMorgan Chase & Co. became the first major U.S. bank to mandate a return to offices for its whole U.S. workforce, telling staffers in a memo Tuesday that they’ll need to come back in about two months on a “consistent rotational schedule.”

Citigroup Inc. plans to bring more workers back in July while Wells Fargo & Co. is seeking a more normal environment in September.

Even when workers come back, firms are signaling that things may be dramatically different. HSBC Holdings Plc is planning to reduce business travel by half and cut its office footprint by 20% as it moves to a flexible work environment. Deutsche Bank AG plans on allowing its staff to work from home as much as three days a week.

Manulife, which has more than 37,000 employees, is still working out the details of its post-pandemic policies. The firm has preserved its culture by helping employees through the pandemic, Gori said. It is giving workers five extra personal days this year and holding a companywide off day on June 18 that it calls a “Thank You Day,” repeating a perk from last year.

The Toronto-based insurer has held virtual talent shows, book clubs and other events to keep employees connected throughout the year, he said. The marquee event was an all-employee rally on Tuesday that featured former NBA superstar Magic Johnson speaking about teamwork and performance.

Gori said the work has paid off, with an annual engagement survey Manulife takes of its workers placing it in the top quartile among financial firms in 2020, up from the middle of the pack in previous years. Showing employees that their health is a top concern by not rushing them back to the office and providing flexibility after they return will be key, Gori said.

“A lot of folks are very married to their products and services and technology, and I think that’s all really important, but in the medium term, products and services can be copied, and quite frankly, technology can be replicated as well,” Gori said. “Culture is really the only true, long-term sustainable competitive advantage.”

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