Most Canadian P&C insurance industry professionals would like to see more hybrid, flexible working arrangements once the health threat of the global COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
“I’m not really keen to go back to five days a week [in the office],” one Canadian Underwriter reader wrote in an online survey of more than 1,100 Canadian P&C insurance professionals conducted Monday. “I want to go back one to two days a week on an as-needed basis, with no pre-set schedule. I may want to continue working from home full-time so I can move outside the city.”
Almost 10 months into the global pandemic, the Canadian Underwriter survey suggests that 87% of P&C insurance industry professionals are currently working from home. Seventy-two per cent say they prefer working from home — with 81% calling for their employers to offer more flex time to work from home after the pandemic is over.
But the impact of the pandemic on people’s social interactions with their work colleagues has a substantial minority of readers ready to head back into the office.
“I would prefer a hybrid model, where we work from home some days and [in] the office some days,” wrote one CU reader who preferred to work from home. “Interaction amongst employees is very important for relationships and business.”
For the most part, readers preferring to work from home cited the benefit of increased productivity due to eliminating long commutes to and from the office. They also cited a much better work/life balance.
“I save a lot of time/energy/stress working from home,” one survey respondent explained in written comments. “I can wake up later, save money and the environment [by not] commuting. I can wear what I want. I can use the bathroom openly and whenever I want. I don’t have to pack my lunch and wash all the Tupperware. I can decorate my desk how I want. At lunchtime, I can do an activity that I like, which would not be possible at work (for instance, art, chores at home). If I have a personal call, I don’t have to go anywhere to make sure it’s private. If I need to cry (learning of a death, having a bad day, spousal argument), I don’t have to hide and pretend everything is okay. In spring and summer, I work outside at times.”
Several cited the benefits of cutting out reported commute times of up to three hours.
“I don’t have to spend a total of three hours a day travelling to and from the office,” one reader responded, when asked to elaborate on why they preferred to work from home. “Also, I have an elderly parent living with me and I am better able to care for her.”
“I have a young child,” another reader wrote. “She no longer goes to daycare after school and is able to come home on the bus. And I no longer have to commute.”
Absent the daily office distractions of perpetual meetings and impromptu drop-ins from work colleagues, many respondents found they accomplished more at home.
“As a personal lines underwriter, I can easily and efficiently perform all functions of my job at home,” said one reader. “There is literally no reason to be having to commute to the office every day. In fact, I know my productivity has increased as a result of being able to work from home. And I also have a much more balanced work/life balance.”
But it’s clear the pandemic is starting to take its toll even on the people who prefer working from home. Our survey showed that back in March 2020, when the global COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, 77% of P&C professionals didn’t expect to be working from home past September 2020.
“At first I loved it, and I still do really enjoy working from home,” one reader said, expressing the same kind of dual sentiment others felt about working from home for much longer than most expected. “It’s so easy — no commute, food and bathroom close by, and you don’t have to ‘get ready’ in the same way. I get more time with my family and my animals and I love that. However, as the months drag on, I also really miss my friends and colleagues, and I miss our daily routines. I’ve never felt so alone.”
Citing the importance of social interaction, 40% of P&C professionals reported some degree of enthusiasm for seeing their colleagues and peers once it’s safe to return to the office. Thirty per cent felt neutral about the prospect, while 29% were not enthusiastic about returning to the office.
As for the benefits of returning to the office, “I’m looking forward to getting back in the office and sharing a good laugh with my co-workers,” said one reader. “Jokes aren’t the same over Zoom.”
“I love my company and my co-workers,” said another. “I miss the interaction and the support. Humans are social creatures. Being cooped up at home isn’t great for anyone’s mental health.”
The key to going back to the office, though, is safety. One reader reported contracting COVID-19 in the office; as a result, they are now in no rush to return to the workplace environment.
As for feeling safe in the office, 72% of readers said they planned on getting vaccinated before they returned to the office. A little over half (53%) said they would not feel comfortable working in the office alongside people who chose not to be vaccinated, and 55% said vaccinations should be a requirement before returning to the office.