RALEIGH – Nationwide will close its office housing more than 100 personnel in Raleigh and have those employees “work from home” roles, a move that many other corporations are considering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, office closures and social distancing rules.
The insurance giant is embracing what it calls a “hybrid operating model” built around four corporate campuses with other operations ben transformed to work-from-home.
And Nationwide is far from alone. In a recent survey, research firm Gartner says 74 percent of corporate finance officers plan to move “at least 5 percent” to remote operations.
North Carolina technology executives embraced work-from-home, too, with 80 percent saying 9 of 10 or more employees were utilizing telework capabilities, according to a survey from the business advocay group North Carolina Technology Association. And more than 60 percent expect telecommuting to become more “common” and “ongoing.”
Only 26 percent expect a return to a “pre-virus mix” of in-office and remote operations.
Alexander Bant, a vice president for research at Gartner, said there’s much more involved than social distancing and employee safety.
“This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” she said. “CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce. In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20 percent of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.”
The trend doesn’t mean office building won’t continue. For example, software firm Bandwidth recently announced plans to build a new corporate headquarters in Raleigh and hire an additional 1,000 people. And Pendo, a fast-growing software startup, is proceding with plans for its new corporate headquarters in the capital city while continuing to hire.
But Nationwide is taking a different approach.
The insurance giant is shutting down an office at 4401 Creedmoor Road along with facilities in four other cities as of Nov. 1. The company stresses that the employees affected are “associates” who support insurance agents and customers. While the company would not divulge the number of Raleigh employees affected the Triangle Book of Lists says more than 100 people work at the office.
“We’ve been investing in our technological capabilities for years, and those investments really paid off when we needed to transition quickly to a 98 percent work-from-home model,” said Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker in the closing announcement. “Our associates and our technology team have proven to us that we can serve our members and partners with extraordinary care with a large portion of our team working from home.”
Impact on workers
Nationwide finds itself at the leading edge of official declarations for home work and not all issues have been resolved.
Joe Case, Associate Vice President at Nationwide, told WRAL TechWire that the company does not “anticipate any service impact for agents or members, either.”
Asked if employees would receive technical support and equipment necessary for telework, he responded: “Absolutely. We’ll continue to provide associate what they need to deliver extraordinary care for our customers.”
And he noted that “where appropriate and within company guidelines and policy,” remote employees will be reimbursed for expenses such as internet access and cellphones.
But how to handle the costs of creating and maintaing a home office remain unresolved.
“We’re still figuring out all the details,” Case said. “We plan to complete implementation of this announcement by November 1.”
Case also stressed that the office decision does not affect agents and that no “signicant” layoffs are expected.
“Just to be clear, this announcement does not impact agents,” he explained.
“This is will affect our regional office in Raleigh which houses associates who support agents and customers. There are no significant job impacts related to the announcement. Nationwide does not have employees who are agents. This is a critically important distinction. Independent agents are partners who are individual business owners. They own and maintain their own operations.”