Wednesday, May 25, 2022
In March of 2020, we all left our desks, set up home offices, and transitioned to a strange new way of living. Few could have predicted the scale and scope of what was to come. Two years later, so much has changed about how we live and how we work. It has been a real test of humanity around the world. And together we have struggled through unprecedented uncertainty. We have juggled schedules, looked after our parents and loved ones, and cared for children while in and out of school and daycare. We have delayed plans to see friends and loved ones and that has left us feeling isolated. And we have battled this virus as it swept across our communities in one wave after another.
But at Capital One, we have also found ways to adapt and to thrive. Powered by our culture and our technology, we have discovered new ways of working together that are both effective and empowering. We have seen what we can achieve together, whether in-person around a conference room table or on a checkerboard screen at a kitchen table. We’ve rallied to support our customers when they’ve needed us most. And our company is growing and thriving.
Last year, I shared our hope that health conditions would allow us to fully return to our U.S. offices in the Fall of 2021. Since then we have had to delay the start of our hybrid future as the virus continued to evolve and we prioritized the health and safety of associates. I am pleased to announce that we are planning on a full reopening of our U.S. offices in a hybrid model on September 6, 2022. As we get closer to September, we will closely monitor the health environment and the state of COVID-19 in our communities. If health conditions do not support a safe reopening, we will be ready to delay our planned reopening.
We are intentionally choosing a date that provides ample time for associates to plan and prepare for their transition to our hybrid model. For those who are ready to return to in-person work sooner, our offices are open on a voluntary basis.
We are also providing significant notice because we know we have a lot of work to do on how we bring hybrid to life. That includes making sure we have the workspaces, technology, and norms around where and how associates work to make hybrid effective and empowering.
On September 6, we expect access to our buildings and campuses to be open to all associates. We plan on requiring regular testing for associates who do not provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. We will share more details on our testing policy later this summer. Until our full reopening, voluntary attendance in our U.S. offices will continue to require proof of vaccination, and we continue to encourage all associates to be vaccinated.
Our Vision of Hybrid
Last summer I outlined our initial hybrid approach at Capital One. Over the last year, we have received a number of questions from our associates. Here is a refreshed version of my message from last summer with some additional clarifications and guidance.
Why Hybrid for Capital One
While remote or virtual work has happened in some jobs for years, we collectively discovered something remarkable during this pandemic. Remote work is not a niche opportunity—it works at scale in the mainstream. Two things propelled the success of virtual work during this pandemic: advances in technology and the fact that the whole world went remote at the same time.
At Capital One, we have found that remote work can be both effective and empowering. Our commutes are a lot shorter. Our daily schedules are more efficient. Life’s demands don’t always fit around a 9-to-5 work schedule. Virtual work has allowed us to better balance the competing demands of our work and our personal lives. While a lack of barriers between work and life can be difficult to manage, most of our associates feel productive, effective, and engaged in a virtual work setting.
On the other hand, we also know that the office environment provides many benefits. Our offices and campuses provide unique opportunities for planned collaboration, innovation, and mentorship. And we benefit from unplanned chances to deepen personal connections—whether it be with colleagues on our team, friends we have missed seeing, or strangers we meet in line for a cup of coffee. For newer Capital One associates, being in-person allows them to be surrounded by colleagues, participate in team events, find mentors, build networks, and accelerate onboarding and learning.
We continue to be compelled by both perspectives.
Capital One’s hybrid future means that the significant majority of associates will spend meaningful time working both in-person and virtually. A hybrid solution sounds easy. But we should understand that our previous experiences have primarily been at two ends of the spectrum—all at the office, and all remote. On either of the two poles, everyone is operating in the same way, and a seamless, inclusive experience is relatively easy to create. The middle of the continuum—some people in the office and some remote—presents some unique challenges.
An office environment needs to have an appropriate threshold scale to be effective. That is, enough of your colleagues need to be in the office when you are in the office in order to make the overall experience enjoyable and in-person collaboration effective. Any hybrid solution needs to work backward from that objective. We can help achieve this by concentrating the days where we come together in the office. Similarly, we can coordinate all-virtual days where we have a shared, efficient experience. We also know that meetings where associates are both in-person and virtual will continue to be an important part of how we work together at Capital One. And we need to to ensure everyone feels included no matter where and how they collaborate.
Flexibility is a hallmark of Capital One, and we know that flexibility can help unleash the potential of our associates. A flexible hybrid model can allow associates to match the work they do to the environment that best supports that work. And we want our associates to use our offices in ways that are most effective for who they are and how they work best.
Our Initial Hybrid Approach
In order to support both team collaboration and individual flexibility, our initial hybrid approach will have the following principles:
There is a natural tension between team coordination and individual flexibility. And we have a wide diversity of roles, teams, locations, and associate preferences across Capital One. Certain types of work may especially benefit from being in person: team collaboration, agile activities, interactive problem solving, innovation, onboarding, networking, and social events. For other activities—like individual heads-down work, private meetings, or multi-site meetings or collaboration—virtual may be preferred. We expect teams will develop their own rhythms of office attendance and meetings suited to the type of work they do and the number of locations involved. While leaders may encourage alignment of attendance, they should not be prescriptive about when associates have to come into the office.
This initial approach provides associates with meaningful time working from home and scales virtual work across the company in an efficient way. It also concentrates the time when we are in the office in order to maximize the collaboration and human connections that we know are an important part of Capital One’s culture.
We are calling this our initial hybrid approach for a reason. We are an adaptive company. As we move into hybrid this Fall, we will listen and learn about how this initial approach works for our associates, teams, and customers, and we will make appropriate adjustments.