Atlantic Union reopens corporate offices
Bank among many with flexible work policies
John Asbury, president and CEO of Richmond-based Atlantic Union Bankshares, has learned a lot about his employees during the pandemic. Chief among them: Many of them often don’t need to be in the office five days a week to get their work done. But he also knows that some in-office collaboration is key to the company’s success.
His solution: flexibility, with boundaries.
Like many other business leaders around the commonwealth, Asbury has pondered the right balance to strike with his corporate employees as they return to the office after being mostly virtual for two years.
On Monday, the bank implemented its new flexible workforce plan, sending most workers back to their offices in person at least twice a week. Asbury left some decisions up to individual management teams but emphasized in an interview that it’s not a “work when you want to” kind of flexibility because the bank has customers to serve.
“I believe we will spend the rest of this year seeking equilibrium on how this will work,” he said, promising only that the staff will learn from actual experience and make changes and adapt as needed.
“It’s a starting point,” he said. “We’re going to let it evolve.”
About 82% of Atlantic Union Bank’s employees will have the flexibility to work from home two or three days each week based on their manager’s discretion, while another 16% will continue to be remote and about 2% — those whose job requires face-to-face interaction— will return to their offices full time. The bank employs nearly 2,000 people in Virginia, where most of its 114 branches are located.
“We realized as we gained confidence in the ability to manage the company, with the corporate personnel office remote, which is where we’ve been, it’s irrefutable that it does, in fact, work,” Asbury said.
So the company surveyed employees and the message was clear: they wanted more flexibility. That result spurred Asbury’s leadership team to make a commitment, and executive leaders have been working in a hybrid setup since the beginning of the year.
“We acknowledged the nature of work has just changed, and so, we will have a more flexible work environment and we’ll figure out together what that looks like,” Asbury said.
A lot of companies are doing just that, but since the beginning of the year, offices have been filling again.
Earlier this month, Henrico County-based Fortune 500 insurer Genworth Financial Inc. reopened on a hybrid basis, giving the majority of its employees the option to “work from the office or home on whatever schedule best allows them to focus both on their work and well being,” a spokesperson said.
After postponing several other planned opening dates over the past two years, Genworth landed on April 4 after a sustained period of improving COVID and vaccination trends and the belief that “It is important to have an option where colleagues can realize the benefits of working with others in a shared physical space.” The company’s hybrid approach does not include a prescribed schedule or number of in-office days.
To go into its offices, employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or granted an exception, and masks are optional. Genworth has about 1,600 employees in Virginia and about 780 are associated with the company’s Richmond office and about 615 with the Lynchburg office.
Sometimes COVID-19 variants interrupt reopening plans.
McLean-based Capital One Financial Corp., which announced in June 2021 that it would be “a hybrid work company” going forward, announced it would reopen its U.S. offices fully in November, but that date was abandoned in October 2021. The bank’s leaders said they would not attempt to guess at a date for a full-scale reopening but promised to give its workers 30 days’ notice. A spokesperson confirmed Monday that Capital One has not changed its policy since October.
According to Grant Thornton LLP’s State of Work in America survey of more than 5,000 full-time employees of U.S. companies, 80% of respondents say they want flexibility in when and where they work, and 25% said they would ideally never work on site, a 10% increase from the firm’s 2021 survey.
Grant Thornton, a Chicago-based accounting corporation, has about 1,200 employees in Arlington.
“Flexibility in where you work and sometimes when you work is no longer viewed as an extra benefit,” Angela Nalwa, a managing director and human resources leader at Grant Thornton, said in an April 11 statement. “In fact, flexibility is now a minimum requirement as job seekers look for their next career opportunity. The companies who insist on a mandatory return to office for all employees must find a differentiator that separates their organization from the pack.”