How insurance companies can adapt to increased remote work

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With the onset and continuation of the coronavirus crisis, companies have gone through seismic changes. The biggest change by far has been where business is being conducted – home. In early April 2020, 66% of US employees were working remotely at least part of the time, according to a report released by market insight group Clutch. According to an IBM survey conducted in May 2020, 54% of those new remote workers want to make that a habit.

Fortunately, such a shift to a remote work busines model could be the much-needed business boost that helps companies increase productivity and finally gain that flexibility needed to adapt quickly to any situation. That’s because the pandemic has uncovered some little-known facts about remote work that insurers and related organizations can capitalize on.

The Productivity Boost
The biggest fear many employers faced about remote work was not knowing the impact it would have on employees. Fortunately, plenty of evidence reveals that remote work can actually boost productivity. A Florida University study found that employees working remotely had higher engagement levels and better performance. A Ctrip study revealed that people working from home were significantly more productive than their in-office counterparts.

A Connect Solutions survey reports that 77% of people who work remotely believe they are more productive when working remotely, and 30% believe they accomplish more in less time while working remotely.

What’s more, their employers say they are getting more done. An Indeed survey found that 72% of employers said their employees working remotely were more productive than when in the office.

They’re also bringing much-needed flexibility to many operations. If organizations are able to adapt now to remote business operations, that readies them for nearly any disruption that may occur in the future. In fact, the current pandemic is a great time for insurers to lay the groundwork for a successful remote business model that works for both the business and the employees.

Enabling Remote Team Success
In order to do so, insurers need to let go of current employee management processes. That could be a tall order for some – entrenched ideas about how employees are best managed can slow or even sabotage progress. Yet the solutions for each legacy practice is not difficult to implement:

  • Set specific locations and hours. The pandemic has all but shattered the notion hat employees must be onsite in order to be managed well. But has your organization considered the potential boost in talent by looking beyond location for your next employees? When you remove geographic boundaries, your organization now has the ability to attract talent from anywhere in the country – or the world.

The latter is particularly true if you remove also the nine-to-five work requirement. Especially during the current pandemic when employees are working from home with plenty of distractions, enforcing the traditional workday hours leaves no room for employees whose best hours may fall outside of those parameters. Instead, allow your team to operate when they feel they’ll be most productive.

  • Reduce dependence on meetings. One of the tougher misconceptions about productivity is how effective meetings are. Yes, meetings can help resolve issues or set teams on the right path, but only if they are planned in advance to maximize everyone’s time.

Meetings should be focused and concise. Project meetings should be used to appoint leads and team responsibilities and establish accountability and timelines. Set out an agenda prior to the meeting. Make sure to include an outline of what will be discussed, what objectives the meeting should accomplish, and what steps going forward will be taken. Such meetings are not time to air grievances or bring up other issues, but do allow time at the end of each meeting to ask if there’s a topic that needs to be discussed in a subsequent meeting, or if any employee wants a one-on-one meeting.

  • Meetings should also focus on the wellbeing of each employee. Right now, few organizations are able to manage employees in-house. Even so, seeing an employee every day is not managing. Effective management requires employers to initiate regular conversations with employees.

Schedule weekly team meetings. These meetings should communicate company news, project overviews, and allow time for employees to bring up issues and for employers to assign one or more employees or managers to try resolving those issues.

Make sure to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with employees every month, as well. That’s the time for employees to voice concerns, offer suggestions, or ask questions. These one-on-one meetings can help identify performance issues, and help employees overcome any challenges that could be impeding their productivity or job satisfaction.

The Remote Culture
The need for employee engagement cannot be overstated. More engaged employees, according to a Stanford University/Ctrip survey, are more satisfied with their jobs. It also boosts productivity. A Salesforce study found that employees who feel heard at work are five times more likely to feel able to perform their best.

And their best is making a difference for businesses: A Gallup poll revealed that when a team is highly engaged, they deliver 21% more profitability. Plus, turnover rates drop by 59%, says the same poll.

Yet not all employees work well in a remote setting. Even in the most connected teams, one or more employees may find it difficult to focus with the looser boundaries. Work with these employees to help them define parameters that match their own style, and check with them more frequently – weekly, if necessary – to ensure their ability to stay on track. These employees could need benchmarks or deadlines to help them remain focused.

Create collaborations with other workers that can help these employees feel more accountable and on track. When needed, consider offering mentoring to help them structure their day.

Another issue remote teams are noticing is a higher rate of employee burnout. To avoid this, organizations should encourage downtime. Send a clear message – employees are expected to relax and enjoy their free time.

Employees should log off, turn off work email, and avoid work-related texts or messages after a certain time. After employees stop working for the day, that’s when work stops, too. Even employees working in the late or early morning hours should be cognizant of the time. They should limit their communications to email so that other employees do not feel compelled to answer.

The Remote Advantage
Paying attention to those issues that are not normally part of the traditional, in-house work setting as well as understanding how to revamp management to fit the remote workforce takes a little more thought and effort. It takes retraining yourself and your management team, not to mention your employees, on how best to address the unique aspects of remote work.

It takes patience and communication, as well. The time your organization puts into embracing the remote work model now can help your organization be better prepared for whatever the future of work may look like.

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