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Digital workplace

CTO to CTO: How Aegon made the shift to hybrid work

Article Apr 3, 2024 Read time: min
By: Debbie Waters

Note: This is a guest-contributed article by Debbie Waters. She is the CTO for Aegon, a premier life insurance and asset management company headquartered in the Netherlands.

Five years ago, if you had asked my Aegon colleagues and me if our organization could be fully remote and still productive, I think most of us would have said no.

What a different world we live and work in now.

Today, Aegon’s 16,000 employees enjoy a culture of hybrid work, supported by technology, tools and processes that enable us to forge connections and partnerships, irrespective of our geographic locations.

Beyond infrastructure, we’ve invested significant effort in building a culture that supports employees’ work-life balance, as well as professional goals.

I think the principles that helped us make the shift to hybrid work would apply to other global companies, as well.

Lead with communication to create connections online and in person

For Aegon, as for many organizations, the shift to hybrid work happened practically overnight as a result of the global pandemic. Our leadership had to trust employees to fulfill their responsibilities, regardless of their physical location.

One of the biggest challenges of hybrid work is creating a system where no team or employee gets left behind. Prioritizing over-communication from all leadership—and across international teams—has helped us ensure that our team members feel not just included, but also valued. 

Prioritizing over-communication from leadership has helped us ensure that our team members feel valued.

In our shift to hybrid work, we've taken some simple steps to ensure strong communication practices are woven into the fabric of our hybrid work culture.

For instance, one of the steps we’ve taken to facilitate team building is to let our managers lead the way. In the office, trust and teambuilding often feels more organic—like a natural extension of the working environment. Hybrid work environments therefore require different—and often highly intentional—methods to create connection between colleagues.

Our managers know their teams best. This firsthand awareness means they can sense when an in-person meet-up might be helpful, or when team calls should break free from agendas in favor of impromptu chat.

I've personally found that it’s also about leading by example through simple, everyday choices—like keeping my video on during calls. This visibility can foster a sense of camaraderie as well, particularly when connecting with my teammates who I rarely see in person. Talking face to face cultivates better listening, engagement and rapport, and live video also invites little moments of humanity and humor—a cat jumping up on a lap, a child wandering into frame—providing a lovely lens into the personalities and lives of the people we work with.

Make space for flexibility and freedom

For many of us, the pandemic underscored the importance of establishing or maintaining a healthy work-life balance for both our health and our productivity.

At Aegon, we held on to this lesson in our shift to hybrid work—prioritizing employees’ freedom to work when and where they need to and to focus primarily on output. We’ve found this flexibility allows employees to manage personal responsibilities, such as family care, without compromising their professional commitments.

From a management perspective, this policy has helped to expand the talent pool, allowing Aegon to attract diverse talent from various geographical locations. But it has also granted our employees an opportunity to balance career growth and their personal lives in a way that was much harder to achieve with a traditional five-day office week.

A priority on output, rather than when or where work gets done, enables Aegon employees more flexibility.

Track progress and commitments

As an insurance company, our responsibility is to support the well-being of our customers and our employees—and to protect their data. In our shift to hybrid work, we’ve made it a priority to consistently assess if our evolved working model continues to deliver value for our customers and positive experiences for our employees.

Part of this process involves ensuring security systems are up to the task. Educating employees on security and implementing strong security practices throughout the organization is not just important, it's essential for the success of any shift to hybrid work.

One way we evaluate our progress is our annual employee survey, which includes a section about our hybrid approach. This section consistently returns positive feedback, often scoring the highest across all categories. Notably, many of our employees have used the survey to express that they would be reluctant to join a company that doesn't offer the same flexibility and freedoms for their work.

The survey responses confirm what many of us have suspected and found, as well: hybrid models are more than just a passing trend. They are the future of work.

Debbie Waters is CTO for Aegon.