WFH – The Catch 22 Dilemma for Insurance firms!

I’ve recently spotted a number of LinkedIn survey posts asking respondents “Where do you want to work in a post Covid world?” It’s a pertinent question as this is reputedly the year of the “Great Resignation” and many Insurance professionals have already decamped to sunnier (and in some cases not so sunny) climes.

From a trawl through my recent contacts with a number of Insurance brokers, I can now share that there are several who previously were tied to Dublin who have taken a leap of faith and relocated. That holiday home in the west of Ireland that was only ever visited a couple of times a year has now become the defacto HQ for several respected and reputable brokers in my sphere. Who genuinely has any idea where most of their contacts are now when they call them and what does it matter? So long as they’re being productive (and the evidence overwhelmingly supports this), is it really necessary to have John or Mary in the office in Dublin five days a week?

This raises an interesting question and poses a common challenge for all Insurance firms; how best to accommodate their employees desire to continue working remotely for all/most/some of the week? Some firms I know feel like they’ve been corralled into a Catch 22. If they point blank refuse to go with the tide and insist that all of their staff remain in Dublin and are firmly located in the office five days a week, I honestly believe that there will be a surge of resignations. If they adopt a hybrid model (three to four days WFH), will they still be as productive and effective in the market? If they go fully remote (which by the way is coming down the tracks) what does that mean for their company’s identity both from a physical and conceptual perspective?

Most people over the past 18 months have had the chance to reassess their work/life balance and bar the odd exception, most have adapted well to the working from home model and can readily see the benefits with less hours wasted commuting, less stress (in some cases more) and a more fluid working day. Granted working from home will not work for everyone – try having a Zoom conversation in your house with a toddler roaming in the background, not fun for anyone is it?

Many are eager to continue working in this manner but are open to adopting a hybrid model, thereby allowing their employers the flexibility of having some of their staff present in the office at all times. In some respects this physical presence validates the need to have an office in the first place but the trend seems to be heading more toward remote working with hot desk facilities as required. Failure to introduce at least some measure of flexibility in regards to remote working could prove highly detrimental to any firm that wants to compete in a post Covid market.

With many firms experiencing some difficulty in attracting and retaining the best talent, there has to be a new way forward. Right now with many candidates that I engage in a discussion about new opportunities, their questions are no longer about salary and benefits but what the prospective employer’s WFH policy is and what it will be going forward? In some cases it’s clear and unequivocal, but in most it’s at best grey and ambiguous with companies keen to keep their cards close to their chests until they’re forced into a decision. Any employer that feels railroaded into allowing some form of WFH will bear a grudge and the ultimate loser in that scenario will be the firm themselves.

The success or failure of Insurance firms with the WFH/Hybrid model will come down to the mindset they adopt. If they implicitly trust in their staff to deliver and produce irrespective of their geographic location, then does it really matter if their employee is based in Ballsbridge or Belmullet? The reality is that this pandemic has fast tracked a conversation that we were all headed towards anyway and companies and employees are being asked tough questions now as opposed to five years down the road. Are you ready to have that conversation yet?

Campbell Rochford – Turning Good To Great!

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