When Sun Life Assurance Co.’s employees return to work once the coronavirus pandemic recedes, they’ll be able to choose whether they work at home or in the office thanks to the company’s new flexible work policy.

The insurer’s 12,000 employees won’t be required to work from the office any minimum or maximum number of days. Instead, it will allow client and business needs to guide employees in their choice of where they work at any given time based on the activities they need to complete.

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The company deployed engagement surveys regularly throughout the last 18 months, with the vast majority of employees indicating a preference for a flexible work model, says Helena Pagano, executive vice-president and chief human resources and communications officer for Sun Life. “The pandemic came along and accelerated some of these choices so it seemed like such an obvious conclusion for us to say we’re ready for the next step. We saw our business perform well during the pandemic. Our employees went above and beyond to deliver for our clients and it really looked like it would be a really favourable foundation that we could continue.”

Sun Life’s offices will become a hub for in-person collaboration and ideas, serving as a meeting place for clients and employees, as well as for staff whose roles require more in-office time. To facilitate the shift to a hybrid workplace, says Pagano, the company will equip its offices with the right technology, provide training and support for its people leaders to manage effectively in the new working environment as provinces re-open and increase its focus on creating an equitable and inclusive experience for all employees — whether they work mainly from home or from the office.

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The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive, she adds. “As much as we knew employees wanted to continue to work flexibly, we may have even underestimated how much positive emotion they had about that.”

And she says there are already indications from some parts of Sun Life’s workforce that new hires are seeking positions that allow for more flexibility, so the new hybrid work policy is helping not only with retention of talent, but attraction of new employees looking to join a company with a flexible outlook on where staff work.