Like many organisations, NFU Mutual saw the number of people working remotely increase extensively during the pandemic. At NFU Mutual we fully support the continuation of hybrid working and have created an 80/20 policy, offering our people the flexibility to spend 80% of their working week at home, should they choose to do so. We asked the Programme Management Office (PMO) what hybrid working means to them.

A lot of trust and autonomy
One of the benefits of hybrid working for many is the focus on the work that’s done, rather than where the work is done. To this extent, how do the PMO team feel about the freedom they have to choose where they work? For Cristiana Popa, Senior Change Analyst, it’s been a positive change. “My line manager doesn't have a micromanagement style and she has complete confidence in me and how I manage my work. A good part of my role involves analysis and working with data. That’s pretty much a ‘put your head down’ kind of task which I can easily do at home.”

Cristiana also explains how the hybrid model works for her. “Everyone has the flexibility to choose when they come in the office. We try to come in when we have team meetings or when there's something that we need to discuss.” Katie Noble, Senior PMO Analyst adds, “I'm allowed to make judgements on what I have in my calendar and where I need to be. Having the flexibility to do that is definitely a big advantage of working at NFU Mutual, especially now.” And Senior Project Analyst Louise Hadley also recognises the flexibility hybrid working offers. “There’s a lot of trust and a lot of autonomy around how you manage your work, how you manage your workload, when you're in the office, when you're out of the office. I think as long as people feel that people are available, whether it's on Teams, whether it's in person, there's no issue at all.”

Productivity - wherever we are based
Many at NFU Mutual who are working one day in the office each week will tell you how much they can fit into that time. While being a big fan of hybrid working, Louise still visits the office and gets a lot done in the process. “I really enjoy my one day in the office, I try and make best use at that time, see my line reports, have a team meeting face-to-face, and then I've got the rest of the week to focus, to get stuff done quietly. It works really well for me. I find virtual meetings just as effective in 99% of cases, so I've been very happy to be at home. And I don't miss the commute!” But does hybrid working stop those quick conversations that were so easy when face to face in the office. Not in Louise’s experience, as she explains. “I don't have much of an issue with just chatting to someone on Teams, and saying, "Have you got a minute?" A lot of that goes on as well, so people do reach out and say, "Can we have a quick call now? Have you got two minutes?"

Senior PMO Analyst Rosie Watson-Walsh puts a lot of the productivity of hybrid working down to the tech set up offered by NFU Mutual. “We've got really good technology in terms of the Microsoft office suite. We use Teams and that works really well. In terms of holding hybrid meetings, all our offices and nearly all our meeting rooms have video conference facilities. I just think it gives people that flexibility. We've got some people with long commutes, so they're getting extra time to work that they don't have to spend in their car.”

But for David Askill who joined as a PMO Analyst in October 2021, the office still has its place in helping him build relationships as he gets to know the business. He enjoys the flexibility hybrid offers but appreciates face to face working as part of that. “While I've been learning the ropes at NFU Mutual, being within the PMO hub has been easier, because there's always been people around to bounce queries and ideas off. I don't live far away, so it's very easy for me to get there. But it's also very nice to have the option of where you would like to work, which is good.”

The matrix management approach
The varied nature of projects the PMO team manage, and the 80/20 hybrid way of working makes a matrix style of management highly effective. Matrix management is when people can report to more than one line manager - and, as a line manager, you can manage reports in different teams. Rosie gives an example of how this works. “There are lots of different projects and programmes in the portfolio and we're spread across different sites. Obviously, hybrid working has an impact on this. Matrix management is all about having a person, a ‘task manager’ who you unofficially report to on a day-to-day basis. So, the person I talk to about my day-to-day work isn’t my line manager. It's quite a good way of working.”

For Louise, while there are challenges with matrix management, managing people you may not be working with also has advantages. “Matrix management provides the person with a way to step out of the project to raise issues, or to bounce ideas off you, or to ask questions around how a task is being done on another project. This approach also provides a network away from a project, which can be quite insular. If you're working on a project for two or three years, and you're only working within small team, the matrix management gives you a way to broaden you network by providing sideways networking too.”

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