Canadian Underwriter

Why some insurance professionals are looking forward to back-to-the-office

December 2, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Anna McCrindell, vice president of commercial insurance with Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, likes the energy she gets from heading back into the office.

McCrindell said during an Insurance Institute of Ontario webinar Nov. 23 that in her current role, she’s been working from home the entire time, compared to working in an office throughout the rest of her career. She now drives to the office once a week “to get that face time, and to encourage and invite my colleagues to also be there as well.

“And I’ve now been doing it for a couple of months, and the energy I get from it has been fantastic,” McCrindell said during the Institute’s Employee Satisfaction Interrupted webinar. “‘Now, do I want to do it every day? No, I don’t think so’… but enabling an environment that can allow you to do that is so important for retention.”

She made her comments during a panel discussion around employee retention and how, “in this so-called hybrid area,” organizations are adapting to change to ensure strong engagement among existing employees.

Clockwise from top left: Gary Anderson, CEO of Nova Mutual Insurance Company, Hasaan Gilani, head of underwriting (AVP) with Aviva Canada, Anna McCrindell, vice president of commercial insurance with Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, and Burke Neale, president & CEO of McFarlan Rowlands Insurance Brokers.

One of the panellists was Hasaan Gilani, head of underwriting (AVP) with Aviva Canada. He noted the industry is already seeing “some level” of return to the office. And some companies in the insurance industry have had their employees in the office throughout the pandemic, while others had already been operating on a flexible, hybrid model.

“We’re trying to kind of encourage everybody to come in, without compelling anyone, just encouraging people to start coming in,” Gilani said of Aviva Canada’s approach to return-to-the-office. “Because there’s a lot of advantage to the office environment as well.”

One advantage could include having one-on-one meetings with employees to talk about their performance and career progression. “It just has so much more depth when I meet people in person,” Gilani said, noting that it’s easier to assess somebody’s body language in person.

“And so, we’re going to be back to that hybrid environment where it makes sense for us to meet in person,” he said. “That would be for new employees; things like large meetings or training.”

Besides re-energizing employees, back-to-the-office can also drive engagement. It also shows company leaders that you are “engaged and visible,” Gilani said. “When you’re working from home, there’s more onus on you to be visible, turn on your camera.

“That’s a great first step, then speak up in meetings and all those kinds of things. That tells your team that you are engaged as well. And doing that in person goes way beyond that.”


Feature image by Vladimirov