Faced with the current crisis, MetLife’s CIO, Tim Batten, reveals how his team transitioned 450 staff to work from home in just one week, with minimal disruption to business and customers.

How did your team transition MetLife’s workforce to remote working in such a short time frame?

We moved very rapidly as the threat of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) became a reality. Within seven days of our first crisis-management meeting, all staff were working from home.

Aside from the technical requirements, we put a lot of emphasis on:

  • Training – Helping people who weren’t used to working from home learn how to use new technology.
  • Security – There are a lot of people trying to exploit COVID-19 with phishing attacks, so we’ve had to remain vigilant about this. We regularly message staff about how to recognise those sorts of threats.
  • Communication – Our CEO and leadership teams touch base daily to keep everybody connected and informed as the situation changes.

How did you help people adjust to the new normal of working remotely?

We provided support for people leaders about remote team management including how to:

  • run remote townhalls (business-wide updates)
  • host virtual meetings
  • have remote social drinks

We've tried to emphasise that it’s business as usual – we're just running things remotely.

What hurdles did you have to overcome?

The need to transition to the workforce came in the middle of a VPN upgrade. We had to rapidly accelerate this to enable staff who hadn’t previously worked remotely to access important security measures.

We also needed to provide extra technology for specific teams including:

  • Contact centre staff working from home needed telephony services, and
    to be able to record all voice calls for regulatory reasons.
  • Data-heavy users such as pricing staff and actuaries. It's not feasible to move lots of data through an NBN line so we had to provide a new solution for their remote desktop services.
  • IT developers also needed more advanced remote desktops with specialist tools for coding. We also had to make sure that was secure.

How are you reassuring MetLife staff that the business will have the resources to support them through this difficult time?

We‘re in a good place from a technology perspective.

Platforms are stable and everyone is now enabled to work and collaborate effectively. Processes such as ticketing, onboarding and offboarding have been set up to work remotely.

But we’re not stopping there.

We’ll continue to help with more training, we are constantly looking at improving the tools that we provide to our teams to ensure that they can work collaboratively even though they are geographically dispersed.

What have you learnt from this experience?

I’ve learnt new social norms such as having drinks with people via video conference. It’s allowed me to socialise with friends and family in other cities.

Also, we have a lot of staff overseas. I’ve noticed how levelling it is to have everyone on the same video conference, which wasn’t necessarily the case before. It really helps everyone contribute on an equal footing.

Most of all, I’ve learnt how well my team operates. I’ve been really proud of our achievements.