Canadian Underwriter

How Canada’s P&C industry is reacting to the hybrid office

March 31, 2022   by David Gambrill

Hybrid workforce model. Choosing between In-office, Remote or Hybrid model. Work from home WFH.

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Seventy-one per cent of Canada’s P&C industry reports being happy with their new hybrid office arrangements, according to a Canadian Underwriter online poll.

Almost 46% reported being ‘very satisfied’ with moving to hybrid work, while a further 26% were satisfied. Only 11% reported being either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their current hybrid office arrangements.

Canadian Underwriter’s poll of 650 P&C insurance professionals this week found almost 89% of the industry offers a hybrid work arrangement, meaning employees can choose to work from home for at least one day of the week.

The poll found just over 80% of P&C industry professionals are now working three or fewer days in the office. A full quarter of the P&C industry is still working remotely (zero days a week in the office). A total of 57% are either working in the office three days (21.2%), two days (20.6%) or one day (15.4%) a week.

The return to work is occurring during a time when provincial governments across Canada have dropped most public health restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes ditching mask mandates in most public areas, save for hospitals, nursing home care settings and public transport, to name a few.

About 10 months into the global pandemic, a Canadian Underwriter survey suggested 87% of P&C insurance industry professionals were working from home. At that time, in January 2021, 72% said they preferred working from home and 81% called for their employers to offer more flex time to work from home after the pandemic is over.

Most Canadian P&C insurance offices have answered that prayer.

“The flexibility is great,” one industry professional said of their hybrid work arrangement. “Improves morale. Saves time and money. Better for the environment.”

The hybrid office arrangements also offer an opportunity to re-connect with work colleagues, as many observed.

“It’s good to see other people and utilize office ergonomics,” writes one. “Easier collaboration.”

Time in the office also provides a better mentorship experience, as others note. “I don’t believe working remotely is a good way to develop and mentor staff in the long run,” says one P&C professional, reflecting the views of many polled.

There is definitely a sense in many written poll answers that offices and employees are still working out the ideal arrangements. And while they do, things are bound to be confusing.

“My employer has not set criteria outlining who may work remotely/in the office,” one comments. “Some managers have very strong opinions that staff should be in the office, but also say that staff can work remotely. It makes it confusing for the remote worker.”

The poll indicates discussion continues about who needs to be in the office and for what length of time.

“My job has been designated as ‘office only’ when in fact it could easily have been hybrid model (3 days per week),” one respondent wrote. “Right now, I only go in once per month to collect the mail and process it along with any cheques. The Customer Care Agents are designated as hybrid workers (3 days per week at home, 2 days/week in the office). I see no reason why my job is any different from theirs.”

Underlying it all is a sense of caution about the risk of being infected by COVID-19 in the office. Some clearly have different risk tolerance levels than others.

“At this point, we are not being asked to return to the office for any specific percentage of time,” said one respondent. “I appreciate this [since] I am apprehensive about returning, as COVID-19 remains within our community.”

And for some managers, who must show up in the office to set a good example, that can cause some internal conflict, as one notes.

“I feel we’re forcing people back too early,” one writes. “Our company is following provincial protocols, which I believe are irresponsible and put the population at risk. As a part of the management team, I’m feeling particular pressure to return to set the example for my teams. I don’t feel safe.”


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