Canadian Underwriter

The critical piece that made remote work successful for Travelers

February 12, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Property and casualty insurance industry employers need to work with staff to set clear expectations when it comes to setting up a working-from-home policy, says an insurer executive.

Done correctly, P&C employers can see a boost in productivity and employee engagement as a result, said Heather Masterson, president and CEO of Travelers Canada.

Offering remote working opportunities is desired by many employees when a return to the office is possible. In a recent Canadian Underwriter survey, 72% of P&C employees said they prefer working from home. Furthermore, 81% called for their employers to offer more flex time to work from home after the pandemic is over.

Travelers Canada set up a hybrid model a number of years ago that allows staff to work from home or in the office. About 50% of people in any given location would be working from home across Canada before the COVID-19 pandemic stuck.

Heather Masterson of Travelers Canada speaks during the Insurance Institute of Ontario’s At the Forefront, ‘Strategies for Recruitment and Retaining Staff In Office or Remotely.’

Its work-from-home policy rolled out in 2016 and has been an integral piece of the company ever since. Such a policy should be seen as a strategic tool for the company, Masterson said.

“It’s all part of an important strategy around employee engagement. And [it was] really good for us that we leaned into flexibility around work, and how we work, and how we’re thinking about work,” she observed during the Insurance Institute of Ontario’s latest At the Forefront series entitled Strategies for Recruitment and Retaining Staff In Office or Remotely.

“We first recognized it was important to have some flexibility around this mindset because we recognize the notion that it increases employee satisfaction. It increases employee engagement and, therefore, increases productivity when done correctly.”

Having a functioning flexible work policy is not only important now, but for the future, she observed. She cited stats from the Insurance Institute of Canada showing that 27% of the P&C insurance workforce is expected to retire by 2027. Millennials make up the biggest cohort of the industry at 40%.

“We are all striving for better work-life balance and making sure that we have the right formula to attract great talent, and to retain great talent is really something that we’re very interested in,” Masterson said.

Travelers has flexible work arrangement contracts in place with about 30% of its staff. Currently, amid the pandemic, 97% of Travelers employees in Canada are working from home.

“We need to make sure that we are deploying all the resources that we possibly can to make sure that we have an effective model, that we have an engaged culture, and that we have a great place to be, so we can really continue to attract and retain great talent,” Masterson said.

Key to having that effective model is to set expectations. They have to be clear and consistent. Conversations around arrangements need to be transparent as well, she said. Masterson gave an example of when her two daughters were younger. She would start the day early in the morning and get a lot of her work done then. She would use the rest of the workday for meetings, be it with colleagues, brokers or clients. She would then dedicate the remainder of her day to her family.

“And that’s really worked for me. So I make sure that my colleagues and my manager understand that that’s how I work and that’s a system that works for me,” Masterson said.

It’s worked well, she added, because she ensured everyone around her was comfortable with that type of schedule. “If there’s something that’s unusual, or an emergency that I need to draw attention to, I am absolutely available in the evening,” she said.

On the other hand, if it’s not urgent, if it can wait for her to take care of in the morning, then she can take the time to prepare something in time for the person to have it the next day, Masterson said. “And that seems to work very, very well.”

Overall, it’s important to be flexible and communicate those expectations so that everyone has an understanding of when things can be expected. “That really is, fundamentally, kind of the most important item — for everyone to be on the same page when moving into a remote working environment,” Masterson said.


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