August 16, 2021 by Canadian Underwriter Staff
With COVID-19 cases rising across Canada and several large employers — including the federal government — announcing they’ll require workers to be vaccinated, insurers and brokers may begin rethinking their return-to-office plans.
Not long before the fourth wave hit, some insurance companies officially announced their return-to-office plans for this fall. Most opted for a hybrid model, while Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company said it would let the vast majority of employees choose where they want to work.
While no insurance company has publicly announced a change in plans, the fourth wave and the rise in mandatory vaccine policies may influence the industry’s return-to-office plans plans. Against this backdrop, some companies may want to opt for entirely virtual workplace models — a model Deloitte calls “visionary” in a recent report.
Deloitte’s 2021 Insurance Outlook found that insurers fall into one of three potential archetypes for their post-pandemic work culture: traditionalists (all employees eventually returning to the office); progressives (a hybrid on-premise/virtual model); and visionaries (most working virtually).
“Insurers should consider moving beyond traditional structures and build a road map to thrive virtually,” the report suggested. “The vision for each post-pandemic organization will be set at the top, so insurance executives will likely face hard decisions about which archetype best suits their company.”
Each model comes with challenges and opportunities.
“Traditionalist” insurers and brokerages will be competing for talent with firms that offer more flexible work arrangements. They’ll also need to adapt existing office space to accommodate new health and safety protocols and are likely to delay any workplace modifications until after the pandemic.
For “progressive” firms, consistent measurement of productivity and maintenance of culture will remain a post-pandemic concern, as well as managing new capabilities and technology infrastructure (e.g., tools, processes and data security) to support employees in their hybrid workforce.
The “visionaries” will need to support employees who choose to work off-site as well as those who want to return to an office environment. In addition, “visionaries” will need to address how to create and maintain culture, measure consistent productivity and performance, create virtual team leadership, and leverage technology to suit remote work and collaboration.
Whichever archetype they choose going forward, the industry will need to revise traditional talent models for hiring and onboarding new talent, and review their performance management protocols, the report suggested.
“Formal expectations for remote workers should be established, taking into consideration employees’ personal situations while offering resources to enhance productivity, including well-being programs or flexible work options.”
In-person training is hard to replicate for remote workers, for example, and insurers with a fully remote or hybrid environment should “map out more robust, engaging virtual learning and development programs to complement or even replace in-person training,” the report said. “This could include training in pods and virtual cross-mentoring between seasoned and novice professionals.”