Hope appears to be on the horizon with vaccine doses becoming available to adults. But, even with numbers of COVID declining, treatments improving and herd immunity around the corner, the remote worker in the insurance niche seems to be here to stay.
Before we jump into stats, you cannot pen a blog about the increase in the number of remote workers without acknowledging the tragic year we have weathered with sicknesses and deaths, dramatic unemployment, long food lines and hospitals strained to capacity and beyond. A byproduct of this life-altering time in history has been a deep examination of the way we live together, and work together. More people and companies are finding that work from home has benefits – as long as both employee and employer have systems in place to ensure success.
One recent study reports that 37% of the insurance workforce said their preferred work environment for 2021 was working from home and 31% prefer a hybrid model of a combination of workdays in the office and at home. You may read more in this study about COVID impacting the insurance industry in 2021. It seems that the longer people productively work from home, returning to the pre-COVID norms may not ever happen. We may see 25-30% of the workforce permanently working from home.
Many leading companies, such as American Express, Target and Capital One, are expected to have some employees return to work by early July or after Labor Day, either full time or with a hybrid model. Other firms, such as Dropbox, Twitter and VMWare now acknowledge the new default is working from home, not the traditional office.
A year ago, at the start of the pandemic, shifting to a remote workforce left many workers facing new stresses – ensuring their children were attending Zoom classes, setting up their home office to accommodate productivity and bandwidth requirements, juggling the challenges of work/life balance, spending enormous amounts of time together with family members or socially distancing in relative isolation. For some, the dramatic situation lead to poor mental health, poor physical health, anxiety and even depression.
But as we become accustomed to our new normal, we may find that working from home has many advantages, such as avoiding long commute times, saving money on gas and car maintenance and lower childcare expenses. For companies, they may be able to reduce real estate expenses, utilities for office spaces, leased parking, as well as business travel and entertainment costs.
To feel comfortable with remote employees, one must shift management style a bit. You can no longer manage by walking around the office or micromanaging an employee sitting outside of your office. You must now focus more on interacting virtually, employees’ tangible results and measurable units of work.
We at MGA Systems have been virtual since March 2020 and will continue to work remotely for at least the near future. When we return, we may have a hybrid model of some days in the office and some days working from home, we may all return to one of our offices or we may work remotely as the default indefinitely. It will depend on what we need to do to keep all of our employees safe and provide outstanding service to our customers.
In the meantime, we use Microsoft Teams for our virtual face-to-face meetings and chat, as well as for coding and testing collaboration. While we didn’t provide a $1000 expense reimbursement to each employee for outfitting a home office as Google did, we have made monitors, laptops and cameras available to any employee that needs additional hardware to effectively work from home. We found we have been able to maintain our regular software deployment schedule for updates and ongoing maintenance for both Insurance Management System (IMS) and NetRate. With our distributed workforce, we continue to interact with our customers, using our ticketing application and video conferencing.
And the beauty of IMS and NetRate is that you can securely log in to either product from anywhere across the globe (including from your spare bedroom) to manage your work as an MGA or program administrator during these challenging times. Our customers have been able to leverage their technology to continue providing high quality service to their customers while also attracting prospects.
Whether our full workforce returns to the office post-COVID, continues to work remotely, or a little of both, the pandemic has caused all of us to rethink how we work. Do we really need to jump on a plane to attend a meeting? Do we have to sit side-by-side to pair program? Must we all be in a conference room together for an employee meeting? Do you need to go onsite to conduct a loss control review or a risk assessment with a new prospect?
For information on how MGA Systems can support your remote work environment, contact us at (877) 790‑1114. Or share your approach to working differently than you have in the past.