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John Hancock to close its Westwood, Portsmouth offices

Life insurer is consolidating its New England workforce at its Back Bay headquarters, but many people will continue to work remotely after the pandemic.

Marianne Harrison, president and CEO of John Hancock.
Marianne Harrison, president and CEO of John Hancock.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/file 2017

John Hancock is closing its offices in Westwood and Portsmouth, N.H., and telling most of the 900 affected workers they’ll continue to work remotely after the pandemic at least on a part-time basis, with the Back Bay headquarters as a home base.

Marianne Harrison, John Hancock’s chief executive, broke the news to employees on Friday. The life insurer’s move is the latest shift among a number of local white-collar employers to consolidate their office footprints after the COVID-19 pandemic has helped show the effectiveness of working from home.

Spokeswoman Anne McNally said no job cuts are expected as part of this transition, although John Hancock recently cut about 160 jobs out of its 5,000-person US workforce. (John Hancock is an arm of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp.)

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The closing of the 95,000-square-foot Westwood office and 103,000-square-foot Portsmouth location — both have largely gone unoccupied during the pandemic — represents a 22-percent reduction in John Hancock’s overall New England footprint. The Boston headquarters campus, two buildings on Berkeley and Clarendon streets, totals 707,000 square feet in space.

About 500 employees were based in Westwood, while 400 were in Portsmouth, McNally said.

In a memo she sent to employees, Harrison said both sites had been designated as “business recovery sites,” essentially a backup, if the Boston headquarters “experienced a business disruption.” Now that remote work has been proven to be successful, the company has determined it no longer needs the properties for business continuity purposes. Also, Harrison noted that less than 50 percent of the seats and space were being used at the locations before the pandemic.

Harrison said the teams at the sites supported Hancock’s global wealth and asset management business, technology, and operations.

They’ll either continue to work remotely, eventually move to the Back Bay headquarters, or adopt a hybrid model with the Back Bay offices as their primary work hub. Harrison said it was likely only a limited number of positions would move to the Back Bay on a full-time basis.

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“The teams in both locations have already been champions of incorporating remote work into how they operate,” Harrison wrote. “[It] is a model they have successfully refined over time as they continue to ensure delivery on customer commitments.”

As for the rest of John Hancock’s employees, Harrison had no updates to share about the company’s return-to-office plans. How the company returns will be informed by the “flexible work experience” of the last year, and the timing will be affected by public health information, she said. She pledged to give employees at least 60 days advance notice of any return-to-office plans.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.