And in an exclusive interview with the Times it has also again confirmed that it is committed to remaining in Tunbridge Wells.
The news comes after the company announced it was closing two local offices and introducing permanent hybrid hours with time split between office and home, a change that has impacted some town centre retailers who have lost customers.
AXA CEO Tracy Garrad, who is responsible for 2,000 staff in Tunbridge Wells, told the Times: “There is huge benefit in working in the office and learning from one another so we have been very honest [with staff] and said from the start we would not adopt a 100 per cent working from home model.
“We also do have a handful of workers that cannot physically be at home because of the nature of their jobs.”
She had only been in her post at the health insurer around a year before the pandemic hit, which caused significant challenges for the business.
Among the decisions Tracy Garrad made as the company emerged from the pandemic was to switch to hybrid working – with some staff in the office on some days but working from home on others.
The move has meant that two of its Tunbridge Wells offices are now surplus to requirements, and AXA has put up for sale Eynsham House and Phillips House on Crescent Road opposite the Assembly Hall.
As disclosed in the Times last month, the sale has caused concern among traders in the town who are worried about the loss of lunchtime trade with fewer workers visiting the town centre.
Around half of AXA’s 2,000-strong workforce in the town were based in the one of the two closed offices.
“By October 2020 we decided that it was time to ask our workforce about the future,” Tracy Garrad explained. “Around 92-93 per cent of the workforce up and down the country responded to our survey about flexible working, co-working and what they enjoyed about the office.
“About 91-92 per cent were in favour of a hybrid working model. Only around 7-8 per cent did not want to work from home again and a small handful enjoyed working from home so much they didn’t want to return to the office.”
She revealed how they worked out the ‘persona’ of each different department and worker before coming up with a sliding scale of how much work they needed to do in the office and how much could be done at home.
But she admits the business is ‘conscious’ of the impact closing two of their town centre offices will have on trade in Tunbridge Wells.
“Firstly, I want to say the business has been located in Tunbridge Wells for a long, long time. Tunbridge Wells has been very good to us in terms of the people and the quality of the people.”
She continued: “We are conscious of the possibility of it [the office closures] affecting the High Street. But there is a flip side to the economics.
“When I occasionally go into London, I find I’m treating myself more often than when I’m at home.
“If you are in the office five days a week it’s unlikely you will go out and buy lunch five days a week, but when you are working two or three you might. People are also not spending as much on commuting, which is putting extra money in their pocket.
“I can’t say it won’t have any effect, but it is really too early to say. Perhaps things will be clearer by the middle of next year.”
She added: “We are very committed to the hubs and centres that we have including those in Tunbridge Wells.
“Of course, it has to work for the business, and we may make changes along the way so it will be kept under review.
“I do have a place in Tunbridge Wells and spent all of lockdown here and it is clear there is a strong sense of community here. And AXA benefits from the community and the people.
“We have very good relationships here and work well with the Council, and of course Tunbridge Wells has excellent commuter links. There is also plenty of lovely countryside and a great puppy and dog community, which I love being part of.”