The coronavirus pandemic forced a near overnight shift in how workers across swaths of industries, including insurance, work. Virtual meetings, telecommuting, a boom in remote tech – these things all became part of the everyday workplace reality in a flash and shook attitudes about what it means to be “at work and working.”
My team and I work with a range of business owners in the insurance industry, from one-man shop independent agents and brokers to larger firms. While responses to where and how people work have certainly varied, we do anticipate that there will be several permanent side effects on insurance workplaces even after the pandemic subsides.
1. Putting the brakes on road warriors
Pre-pandemic, many insurance industry road warriors routinely traveled the bulk of each week to get in front of people. Although some can't wait to hit the road again, others revel in the ability to reach more agents and brokers in less time virtually. Companies will likely be weighing multiple considerations before giving employees license to travel again, and curtailing travel when not absolutely necessary. There aren’t just health and safety concerns for having employees limit travel; companies that have slashed budgets are likely shaving unnecessary expenses.
2. Expanding first-hand touchpoints with new audiences
There's still an argument for the effectiveness of in-person sales meetings, but the pandemic has really opened up the lines of communication to the entire organization. That is, where maybe only one or two people might be in an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting gives the opportunity for multiple people to participate. It's a benefit most didn't realize would materialize when electronic calls became the go-to. There's a benefit to customers and employees to connecting first-hand, even virtually, over getting information relayed to them.
3. Examining operations with an eye for efficiency
Employees across the industry will be more attuned to how efficiently they work because of lessons learned during the pandemic. A decrease in travel and elimination of a commute free up chunks of time. Everyone will now also evaluated which meetings are truly important and which need to be face-to-face; some clients will prefer to permanently meet electronically. We have already seen a boom in technology advancements and uptake in the industry to help employees work efficiently while remote.
4. Boosting take-up rates
The changes forced on business by COVID-19 could increase insurance take-up rates, especially in an area like flood, where the new norms may reduce prices and increase the ease of transactions. What’s more, if there is one glaring lesson that we are learning from the pandemic, it is that the unexpected should be expected. Assessing and addressing risk – whether for businesses or homeowners – is top of mind as people strive to eliminate the potential impact of controllable surprises; for example, the aftermath of the Michigan floods this spring.
5. Forcing modernization
Some insurance agencies and brokers are welcoming the changes necessitated by the pandemic, while others started kicking and screaming that they would have to alter their operations. For example, agencies that discouraged a reliance on digital quickly had to change their tune, embrace how well old-style, mandatory two-hour Monday morning meetings could work on Zoom and update technology infrastructure from computer towers to laptops. Regardless of how advanced a company was in terms of digital acceptance, the pandemic has certainly forced those that were behind to catch up or risk the efficacy of their business in the long term.
The next few weeks and months will likely bring more change and will bring even more clarity to how the industry will be permanently reshaped. There is great value in some of the changes we have seen – and anticipate to stay – and for those willing to be adaptable and flexible there can be great opportunity and growth.