Kelly Cleverly of Nationwide Building Society talks hybrid, flexi and more

Published: 27/05/2021

Nationwide, the world’s largest Building Society has recently been named as winner of the Best Family Network award by work-life balance charity Working Families, as part of the charity’s 2021 Best Practice Awards. The awards celebrate employers whose workplace culture and everyday working practices are leading the way in flexible and employee-friendly workplaces.

At Nationwide we pride ourselves on being a flexible and supportive employer, and while our ethic of care for colleagues and policy provisions as a family-friendly employer has always been a fundamental part of this, we quickly recognised there was even more we could, and should, be doing for our people as the global pandemic hit.

At the beginning of lockdown, overnight our fully paid Emergency Dependents Leave provision was increased from two days per year to four weeks per year. This was driven by the need to support working parents who found themselves with young children at home as schools and early years settings closed.

Flexibility has been the key! Our Working Families Employee Network swiftly mobilised a suite of virtual drop-in sessions for busy working parents to come together to share experiences, worries, and concerns as they navigated the new and uncertain territory of working at home from dining tables, kitchen worktops, and even ironing boards! whilst attempting to home school children who were missing the security of their usual routine.

The Working Families Network also teamed up with a coach and motivational speaker to run a series of group coaching sessions to help colleagues cope with their newfound situations. Recently, this series has evolved into a Society-wide ‘wellbeing booster’ covering key topics such as emotional resilience and avoiding burnout. Our people have 24/7 access to an employee care line, where they can seek support and advice for a range of issues, including mental health, financial difficulties, and legal support.

We have a vision that ‘work is what we do, not a place we go’. Nationwide has led the way on the future of work agenda, with the recent announcement of our ‘work anywhere’ strategy.

We're reimagining our world of work as we 'locate for our day'. This may be in the branch serving members face to face, coming together in person in one of our offices to solve a problem, or working from home.

We’re also opening up new career opportunities. We've proved we can do our roles from anywhere, so new roles are now advertised UK-wide so we can reach a wider talent pool than ever before. Gone are the days of relocating your family in order to take up a new role!

We will create more space for collaboration and social contact and anyone who needs a desk, for whatever reason, will have access to one – whether that's for wellbeing, for specific roles, or those who don't have suitable environments elsewhere.

There are tangible benefits for people, who'll have the choice and flexibility to balance work and life, but also for Nationwide and its members. We'll be a more inclusive, diverse, sustainable organisation. And if people are able to work at their best, it will result in better outcomes for our members.

My top tip for employers and managers of working parents is keep listening and communicating! At an organisational level, ensure continual listening and measurement of employee sentiment. Identify trends in wellbeing and barriers which affect working parents, and get practical solutions from those most greatly affected. Tangible action on the back of this is key - show you’ve listened and are taking action to improve things for the future.

For individual managers, know your people and create a psychologically safe space for dialogue. Take the time to understand your team’s family commitments and if you’re comfortable share some of your stories too. Relatable and authentic leaders will get the best results from their people.

The past year has completely changed the world of work. At Nationwide we recognise the individuality that every single one of our people brings to the table - it’s what makes us who we are.

For us ‘hybrid’ means having highly functioning teams across the organisation, some may prefer to be full-time at home but others may spend the majority of their time in an office location. Ultimately it’s about locating for your day, wherever you will be most productive.

As for me, prior to the pandemic, my husband and I worked 4 days per week - my Mum would have the kids on a Monday and they were both in nursery Tuesday and Wednesday. I’d never considered working at home. At the start of 2020, I was thinking ahead to my eldest starting school in September, and I was beginning to look at the options for wrap-around care.

Then the pandemic hit and it’s opened my eyes and my mind to the meaning of flexible working. My week looks and feels very different now! My Mum took on a very tough battle with COVID in January 2021, and she needs time to recuperate. So, on a Monday I work with my two-year-old! I’m honest about this with my team and minimise meetings so I can work on the sofa and keep her company.

I do the school/nursery run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - literally! I take the kids in my running kit, so I can run home and do something for my own wellbeing at the same time!

One thing that helps with all of this is managing people’s expectations - blocking out time in my diary as out of office and being clear in my e-mail footer about the fact that I work flexibly.

The biggest thing I’ve learned this year is the power of being kind to yourself - easier said than done! “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t try to compare yourself to others around you. We may all be trying to navigate the same sea, but we are all in different boats!

Kelly is a busy working mum of two (Joshua - 5 and Summer - 2). Having started out working as a Chartered Accountant in PriceWaterhouse Cooper LLP’s Financial Services practice, she has spent over a decade working at Nationwide Building Society, in the central Strategy function, and has recently moved into the future capability space. She is passionate about people and organisational culture and has been voluntary Co-Chair of Nationwide’s Working Families Network since October 2019

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