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One size does not fit all: New working models should consider jobs

Where and how we work has changed. Not surprisingly, “anywhere, everywhere” is a core trend in our recently published Insurance Technology Vision 2021. Although much of this conversation revolves around what companies are currently doing (many are moving to a hybrid work model), I wonder about a company – broad conversation is the best vision for new work models.

Instead of this broad approach, I present a different perspective that determines work policies based on job type and whether certain groups within a company are better suited for an office or a teleworking model.

To investigate this, I analyzed our Return to Work research across four different groups in insurance: operations, sales, technology and human resources. I also compared the insurance industry with banking and capital markets to see differences between industries when relevant. I will highlight challenges and considerations to determine the best working model for each group. Of course, there is no single perfect solution ̵

1; every business will have its own needs. My goal is not to tell you what to do, but rather to highlight how different (or similar) the needs and wishes may be between these four groups, and how it can complicate a company-wide work policy.

Return to the office versus telework

In insurance:

Before I dive in, a quick note about the research: To equalize the sample size across the four groups, I included banking and capital markets in the technology group for insurance, while the other three groups are only insurance. The only exception is when I compare the three industries insurance, banking and capital market.

In terms of preferences for working in an office or working remotely, human resources (HR) was the biggest advocate for working in the office, with 70% saying that their employees would prefer to enter the office five days a week. Business, sales and technology managers usually chose between three or four days in the office.

This image becomes more unique when you look at specific questions about rank (junior, mid, senior) and office (front, middle, back). In these matters, there was a clear adjustment in the insurance between HR and operations that preferred the office and sales and technology that preferred more remote alternatives.

In the case of junior employees, 61% of HR and 36% of the respondents want these employees in the office five days a week. But only 21% of respondents in sales and technology believe that junior employees need to be in the office five times a week.

A similar division can be seen when asking about front, middle or back office positions: 52% of HR and 45% of the business said four to five days in the office, while 65% of sales said one or two days and 53% of the technology said two or three days in the office.

Overall, this is where these four groups would fall on a spectrum:

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An important note about the business: While the other three groups seemed to agree, there was a “debate” in the survey within the business. For example: When asked how many days middle-level employees should be in the office, 36% answered four days, but 30% said one day. When asked about back office, 45% of the business said four or five days, but 47% said zero to two days in the office.

This debate takes place in the policies of insurance companies. There does not seem to be a large majority consensus on companies yet. And those who try to return to the office often delay it. Although part of this delay can be attributed to the increase in cases of covid-19, it also means that insurance companies as an industry are not sure what the best working models are going forward.

Compare industries:

How similar or different are insurances compared to banking or capital markets? In the banking sector, HR managers said that only 48% of employees would prefer to enter the office five days a week, a significant reduction compared to 70% in insurance. Interestingly, 47% of bank sales managers also said that employees would prefer five days a week in the office, compared to only 21% from insurance sales managers.

Overall, when comparing banking and insurance, bank executives lean slightly more towards teleworking than insurance, with sales being a notable exception.

If you look at the capital markets, more differences arise. For example: When it comes to teleworking front-, middle- and back-office, insurance executives seem quite divided on how many days they would prefer office work. But the capital markets are dramatically focused on teleworking. This significant difference applies when comparing HR in insurance and capital markets, while sales and technology are more adapted between the two industries.

Insurance business

Click / press to see a larger image.

Capital market operations

Click / press to see a larger image.

What does all this mean?

  • Sale: It is clear that sales teams prefer teleworking, with only a few days in the office. It is likely that the transition to telework due to covid-19 has shown sales groups that connection via technology (Zoom, Teams, etc.) can be effective. Without having to travel, sales can be much more efficient. But the question remains whether remote / video contact points are strong enough in the long run to drive up sales. When we look ahead, it is likely that there will be a balance between the efficiency and flexibility of distance selling with the more intimate nature of a face-to-face meeting.
  • Technology: Technology groups prefer to work remotely most days and can benefit from fewer distractions in the office. But our survey also shows a clear understanding of the importance of being in the office. A large part of the technology requires working together across both business and IT silos, being available for all crises and delivering new opportunities that may or may not have been offered to customers before. Ensuring that there is a common vision and successful joint planning is a big part of what groups need to “come to terms with”, whether they continue to work remotely or begin to delve into hybrid work models. Overall, most technology teams benefit from a balance between office work and telecommuting, with a tendency towards flexibility for more telecommuting.
  • Operations: Operations are the most difficult of the four groups. Our Return to Work data highlights a shared preference for office or distance work. Nevertheless, this gap is in fact a meaningful insight that can be the basis for politics. For example, Field claims personnel and operating office personnel have different requirements. Field staff do not need to be in the office as often, as there are technologies that support day-to-day injury management. But the office claims that staff would probably benefit from a more hybrid model.
  • Personnel department: HR clearly prefers to work in the office, which is very much in line with their overall goal of engaging employees, establishing a healthy culture and being a support system.

Maintain culture with different work models

A core challenge with having different work models for different groups is to build and maintain a strong corporate culture of cooperation and teamwork. Training, file review in the office and other reasons to get teams together in person will be crucial to ensure that the business works as seamlessly as possible.

Ultimately, each company must make the decision that makes the most sense for its specific business. Although there is some adaptation, it is clear that different groups have different views on telework versus work in the office. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so the question is whether leaders will take these different points of view into account when deciding on employment policies, or whether they will adhere to company-wide policies. In my next blog post, I will look at information about employee sentiment and how it can help inform about the best working model for these four groups.

In the meantime, take a look at our Insurance Technology Vision 2021 report to explore this trend “anywhere, anywhere”.

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Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be used in consultation with our professional advisors.

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