March 30, 2022 by David Gambrill
More than seven out of 10 Canadian P&C industry professionals feel protected from COVID in their new hybrid office arrangements, according to an online poll conducted this week by Canadian Underwriter.
Over 650 P&C professionals answered CU‘s survey, including brokers, insurers, risk managers and claims professionals. The poll included questions about satisfaction with hybrid work arrangements, safety at the office now that public health restrictions are lifting, and what steps the industry’s employers have taken to protect them from the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 3.47 million Canadians and killed 37,547.
Many provinces have lifted their mask mandates, triggering a return to offices. Eighty-eight per cent of the P&C industry reports working in some form of hybrid arrangement (i.e. some time working in the office and some time working from home).
Of those who have returned to the office, 71% said they felt either very safe (38.3%%) or safe (33.6%) in their new office arrangements. Although many respondents observed the word “safe” is a relative term these days, as there is always a risk of COVID infection anywhere.
“Nothing is perfect but I would feel safe going into the office,” as one respondent put it. “It’s the first phase of learning to live with COVID. But it is good that, going forward, people will feel confident calling in to say they can’t come in as they are not feeling well.”
Said another: “Not sure if it has much to do with the office anymore. I think we need to bear some risk, as one would do with any transmissible virus.”
A few P&C professionals said being in the office is a relatively safe place to be compared to other interactions outside the office. “Safer than at the grocery store!” one respondent commented, with another adding: “Our office sees far [fewer people] than a public grocery store, and I still frequently shop for groceries.”
Of course, the risk of infection remains. Government of Canada public health numbers suggest cases of COVID are again on the rise. At the beginning of the year, new Omicron cases peaked at 58,155 on Jan. 10, 2022, and fell to as low as 2,253 on Mar. 20, per Public Health Canada stats. Now, the number of new cases is on the increase again, with 10,561 new COVID cases reported by the federal government on Mar. 29.
P&C offices are not insulated from COVID risk, as one person in the survey notes. “We returned to office and promptly had a social gathering and a spreader event,” one person wrote. “It was kind of funny. Some were mildly sick as a result; others were asymptomatic.”
Among the steps employers have taken to protect their employees’ safety in the office, providing hand sanitizers was the most common (selected by 91% of respondents), followed by masking (59.7%), extra cleaning (58.4%), social distancing (56.8%) and paid sick days (54.7%).
“Protocols have always been met throughout this pandemic, and I feel that our management has always been empathetic to all staff, and going above and beyond the required mandates,” one P&C professional commented.
Vaccination is another part of feeling safe at work, as many commented.
“The complete office is vaccinated, so I feel that if we were to have an outbreak, the effect would be minimal,” one risk professional observed.
Three-quarters of industry professionals reported being triple-vaxxed, while another 17.9% said they have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Only 2.5% of the survey respondents reported being unvaccinated (i.e. received zero vaccination shots).
A slight majority (52.9%) of respondents said they would feel comfortable working with unvaccinated people in the office.
Vaccination mandates remain a hot-button issue at the office.
A slight majority (56%) believes vaccination should be a requirement for being in the office.
Some are quite passionate about the need for a mandate.
“My lack of comfort around colleagues who aren’t vaccinated is due to my view that we need to trust professionals in society,” one respondent wrote. “I equate an unvaccinated person to someone in our field who says, ‘insurance brokers are crooks,’ or ‘insurance is a scam.’ I do not believe that someone who is unvaccinated is someone who can adequately manage risk.”
Others feels equally strongly that vaccination mandates are not required.
“Imagine requiring people to take a vaccine so poorly devised that you need three doses of it, still need to social distance, wear masks, close offices and businesses and stay home to be safe. And even after doing all that, you still get COVID, as we saw with Omicron.”
Feature photo courtesy of iStock.com/Ridofranz