Most firms after nearly two years of managing the fallout from the pandemic felt that, by 2022, we would return to “business as usual.”
Some, including insurance agents and the property and casualty industry in general, made plans for their workforce to return to the office in the fall of 2021 while others were looking for most of their employees to be back behind their office desks at the beginning of this year. By December, however, major companies shelved their return-to-office playbooks as the Omicron variant spread like wildfire across the country in the wake of the Delta variant. Companies are now reassessing their return-to-office plans as 2022 unfolds.
Add to this, the reality that many employees prefer a work-from-home option, or at least a hybrid alternative, for greater flexibility and work-life balance. A recent report from Future Forum, a consortium focused on reimagining the future of work led by Slack Technologies Inc., cites that 95% of workers surveyed want flexible hours and 78% of workers want location flexibility. The report provides a snapshot of just how important and popular hybrid-work options and flexibility are to employees. In addition, the survey found that 72% of workers who weren’t happy with their level of flexibility—whether time or location—were likely to seek out a new opportunity. The survey was conducted in November with more than 10,000 workers participating. (source: The Wall Street Journal)
Offering a Hybrid Approach
Many businesses along with the property and casualty insurance sector are trying to meet the shifting work landscape by accommodating hybrid-work alternatives and getting creative by scheduling in-person meetings for specific needs. Aetna, for example, adopted a hybrid approach with office-based employees coming in two or three days a week. LinkedIn has also adopted a hybrid model that will allow the majority of its employees to work remotely most of the time. Ford Motor Company announced in early December that tens of thousands of office workers would begin using a hybrid model in March. Employees will collaborate with supervisors to develop schedules.
Some companies, however, have made the move to return to the office. Bank of America, for instance, began bringing employees back to the office after Labor Day and is encouraging employees to get vaccinated. Since early June, Goldman Sachs has been bringing back employees, including on a rotational basis. The investment bank also requires employees to disclose their vaccination status, as well as requiring unvaccinated workers to test weekly and wear masks.
What About In-Person Events?
Some events are back in person after going virtual last year. CES, the tech mega-conference in Las Vegas, took place mid-January welcoming 45,000 attendees. The insurance industry has planned in-person events as well. For example, the 2022 WSIA Insurtech Conference is taking place in New Orleans in March. The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation will be hosting an event in Chicago in March. There are other in-person insurance events planned throughout the year, as well.
Nothing can be considered set in stone any longer as the pandemic forces companies -- from insurance agencies to carriers and others in the property and casualty industry -- to continue to be agile and fluid. This period has also instigated a reimagination of the workplace with flexible options a critical component in retaining and attracting talent.