Even before the pandemic caused by Covid-19, work-life balance was a topic that was important to State Street and to management. Our policies, applied globally, allow employees to manage and coordinate their private and professional lives as best they can while fully respecting the operative needs of the business. Furthermore, our supplementary company contract foresees that employees – insofar as they are compatible with the company’s needs – take time off or work flexibly in ways that allow them to reconcile the many commitments that must often be balanced in the private sphere. Our focus on work-life balance became even more important during the healthcare emergency, which pushed us to find additional ways of improving the lives of our employees.
It is important to underline that in the global financial system, State Street plays an important role. In fact, as a global systemically important institution, a so-called G-SIFI (Global Systemically Important Financial Institutions), State Street, given both the kind of work it does and the types of clients it serves, has invested for some time in a solid business continuity plan that allows it to carry on with its work even during moments of serious crisis such as that created by Covid-19. Our colleagues already had access to the tools they needed to be able to connect remotely and engage in smart working. Intense preparation allowed us to be ready and well equipped to face an emergency of this kind; the global reach of this health crisis and speed with which the pathogen spread seriously challenged our global model and structure, but they demonstrated themselves to be well able to respond to the needs of our clients and the financial system. At a practical level, for us the activation of the emergency plan was the equivalent of extending digital access to most of the population and, within a few days of the first cases being recorded in Lombardy and Veneto, almost our entire workforce was in a position to work remotely. Processes and gears continued to shift and operate as though it were business as usual. Our global operative model allowed us to redistribute parts of the process between various macro-geographical areas that were covered by operational presence, where the work allowed. To summarise, for us smart working is a tool that enables the continuity of work, in additional to being a synonym for work-life balance.
The greatest change that hit us was the absence of the personal interaction that we were used to. Our people were accustomed to a way of working that was not always ‘in person’, but the number of colleagues who worked from home at the same time before the lockdown was certainly lower compared to today. Adopting smart working was a choice that was forced on us in order to protect our employees’ health and that of their loved ones, and getting used to working at a distance is important to protect everyone’s health. To help our colleagues to manage this new situation as well as possible, it was important to activate initiatives to make up for the absence of in-person interactions. One of the first and main aims we set ourselves to reach quickly was, in fact, that of helping our colleagues to manage this physical distance; and we did this through a series of initiatives that aimed to help us to experience closeness and solidarity. To name a few: daily conference calls between managers and teams, town hall meetings with the entire workforce to share actions taken to protect our colleagues’ health and for the development of various aspects of the business; institutional communication to share indications regarding the business continuity plan; new communication tools and increased use of internal social media; the creation of virtual platforms to share experiences and organise events for socialisation and inclusion in order to keep our sense of community alive, which is an important element of our company culture, and reviewing our Diversity & Inclusion programme to create a new way of practicing inclusion remotely.
Speaking of our business continuity plan, its efficacy is regularly tested and reviewed. Covid-19 was a real test that the company was able to face thanks to the planning and preparation of our colleagues, which allowed us to manage an anomalous situation such as the one we are currently living through. Everyone collaborated, and still does, which is essential for company life to be able to continue uninterrupted. State Street is continuously evolving; we are called to deal with challenges in order to keep up with the times and to be able to grasp opportunities that the markets and clients offer us. Cohesion between employees is fundamental to the bank being able to respond to challenges like this. The spring and summer months of 2020 allowed us to experience a series of unique events organised in the middle of the lockdown, which involved both employees and their children, that will stay with us for a long time to come. And staying on the topic of supporting the need for cohesion between employees, we have launched projects and initiatives that have involved the entire company. Leveraging the experiences we had during the Covid-19 crisis, we intend to create new tools to build a new normal at work together. The Way to New Normality project, which was launched at the beginning of the summer of 2020, aims to collect and later share the many different points of view and experiences of our employees, with the ambition of introducing targeted action to identify a new way of working to better face future challenges. Our values, Stronger Together and Global Force, Local Citizens are at the basis of this initiative that will allow us to figure out how we can evolve our way of working and relating in a new way: the New Normality.
PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN DIVERCITY VIII SEPTEMBER 2020