Insurance carriers and claim professionals deal with various catastrophes each year, so it was only fitting that when COVID-19 struck they were some of the first prepared to revert to "emergency work from home mode."
With many other industries trying to determine how (and if) their workers can take on remote duties, the insurance world led the way with flexibility and (for the most part) ordered adjusters to telecommute so they would not miss a beat of their daily workload.
This trillion-dollar industry is fairly secure in most crises (the popular mantra being that "everyone needs insurance.") Understood are the IT capabilities needed in advance and the supervisor's faith in employees, as they've been doing this sort of thing for years. It was as easy as a keystroke from insurance upper management to keep workers from driving to their respective claim centers with their laptops and instead plugging in at home and being ready to go.
Some insurance companies were first to respond in the U.S. by canceling all in-person (unnecessary) meetings and going virtual. They left some of their fellow businesses they share office space with in the dust as those other companies continued to mull over their options (or until the point of being bound by local government orders). Carriers have, for the most part, been eager to protect their workers from risk (isn't that what insurance is known for?) A possible hazard to staff meant a swift and immediate decision to work from home.
Many carriers have realized the benefits of this arrangement, and even that many employees may put in more hours when working at home, saving themselves a tiresome commute (the average worker in the U.S. commutes over four hours a week, and some high-traffic areas require much more than that).
Most carriers also subscribe to the notion of in-office safety, encouraging those who are sick to work remotely, whereas some organizations may suggest workers come in or otherwise use a paid time off (PTO) day (few employees are pleased with that option as the average PTO days per year that Americans receive are quite low compared with other countries - another conversation, however!).
Many articles have been recently published with "work from home" tips; below are some of the more applicable to insurance industry professionals:
IF Insurance has penned a column called "How to work from home safely and efficiently?" It discusses an important topic in claims as it suggests that "Remote work provides several benefits, such as the possibility to focus deeply on specific tasks that require uninterrupted concentration." For that large litigation claim file with extensive injuries, this makes much sense; fewer interruptions makes it easier to focus on complex claims. Some other useful tips of the article include letting family members know you need to work in peace and keeping an eye on ergonomics and the setup at home (is that monitor at the correct level?). Planning your breaks with a clear start and end time is also key. Remember to keep in touch with colleagues, and don't isolate yourself completely!
"Working From Home Can Mean You Never Stop Working" is a recent piece from Philadelphia Magazine that reminds us all to keep a better work-life balance while doing so and setting rituals for logging on and off while not falling victim to some of the various pitfalls. Remember to move around so as not sit in one spot all day. Have a list of your priorities for the day and use noise canceling headphones if needed to minimize distractions.
See also: Claims: Beyond the ‘Moment of Truth’
Arch Daily's website discusses tips for architects adjusting to the new experience of working from home. Largely, these professionals are used to collaborating with others in an office setting and now need to learn how to use digital technology to replicate those interactions. The article offers very useful information for experts in this field (and all others) to adapt to the times we face.
Will other industries learn from insurance and be well-equipped in the future?
Or will the world change and move drastically to remote working after realizing some of its benefits? And is it really any surprise that insurance carriers are setting the example?
After all, insurance and risk management by definition set out to identify, evaluate and prioritize risks and apply the use of resources to minimize the impact of unfortunate events (like right now).