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New ways of working at Pramerica 02.07.20

PRAMERICA, the largest employer in Donegal, saw just 1-2 per cent of their employees working at the Letterkenny campus during the Covid-19 lockdown. With more than 1,650 employees, that meant hundreds of their staff have worked from home these last three months.
The campus was made available on short notice for staff if they had a connectivity problem but Shane Grant, Director of Facilities, said the numbers of people who used the campus remained fairly steady at only 1 to 2 per cent.
In addition, Pramerica only paused recruitment for two weeks during the lockdown, then began to hire staff remotely, sending applicants online applications that provided a remote experience of the work and meeting with them through the company’s own video platform.
The company closed their small satellite premises in Buncrana, Donegal town and Gaoth Dobhair for the lockdown because of the difficulty in managing social distancing there.
Pramerica campus in Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Overall, Shane said, only about a dozen Pramerica staff could not manage working at home due to connectivity issues.
He sees the new way of working as a massive game-changer. Staff developed more autonomy in the lockdown, adapting their hours to get their work done while managing home and family responsibilities. For example, because Pramerica’s parent company, Prudential, is headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, that meant local employees could start work earlier in the morning, before their own family demands on broadband increased.
Shane has a weekly online call with about 50 managers, “and from day dot there hasn’t been an issue. That’s down to the employees themselves,” he said. The success of video meetings also means that Donegal employees will not have to travel to Newark as often as they had in the past for meetings.
Pramerica will follow government protocols in terms of returning to the Letterkenny campus, and will also reduce campus capacity by two-thirds before then. That means nearly 1,500 desks on the campus will be reduced to about 500, to allow for social distancing.
A survey Pramerica took of its employees recently indicated staff would support the new arrangement: Out of about 1,400 respondents, only 92 people said they wanted to return to the office full time.
“It’s not the end of big campuses, but you have to change the way you operate,” Shane said. “Why can’t you work from home three days a week, and come in for collaboration and the social aspects of it? Then we’ve got the best of both worlds.”
The move to remote working can also be good news for rural areas like Donegal, he said, particularly given the housing and transportation costs in big cities, and other benefits of rural living that the pandemic identified.
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