Canadian Underwriter

MGA’s program gives employees money to take time off

September 1, 2021   by Brooke Smith

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You’re burning out.

According to a June survey from Canadian Underwriter, 54% of P&C employees reported feeling at least some stress and burnout working from home.

Human resources experts often recommend that employees use their vacation entitlement to recharge, but busy employees may feel unable to do so. One managing general agent believes it’s found a solution: give employees money for their vacations.

Toronto-based TruStar Underwriting is doing so as part of its Adventure Program. The company recognizes that employees are living in this “bizarre burnout era,” said Ryan Seager, head of operations. “It’s genuinely a dysfunctional workplace characteristic — and, frankly, a problem that’s become even clearer since March 2020 when COVID began.”

The Adventure Program has two parts. The Adventure Fund, which launched Wednesday, is an annual, fixed stipend accessible to every employee (the brokerage currently has seven). “It’s an equal opportunity benefit, so our associates and C-suite have the same stipend available,” said Seager. “Its purpose is to go beyond simply encouraging time away from the office, but to actually empower [this idea] financially by subsidizing some of the costs that might be inhibiting those weekends at the cottage or trips with friends.”

The fund is fully employer subsidized, and any employee can access the fund as soon as they’re hired — even in their first week on the job. “There’s no vesting period,” said Seager.

The fund will renew annually beginning in January 2023. “We launched this a bit earlier rather than Jan. 1, so we can accommodate any plans our team might have in the fall or winter,” he said.

The second part, the Adventure Leave Policy, was formalized based on the company’s response to COVID, in which employees could work from wherever they wanted. Beginning in 2022, employees will formally be allowed to work for four weeks per year from anywhere in the world, as long as they avoid connectivity issues.

Seager sees the program as a benefit from both a talent attraction and retention perspective. “The specialty lines talent pool is very tight and competitive,” he noted.

While insurance isn’t an industry known to “propagate the burnout culture,” he said, “we want to make it clear to our [employees] we’re not going to let them burn out as much as they can. “We’re going to be as supportive and as empowering as possible so they have a healthy relationship with work.”


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