One measurement doesn’t match all: New working fashions ought to contemplate job

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Where and how we work has changed. Unsurprisingly, “Anywhere, Anywhere” is a core trend in our recently released Vision 2021 for Insurance Technology. While much of this discussion revolves around what companies are doing right now (many are moving to a hybrid work model), I wonder if a company-wide conversation is the best vision for new work models.

Instead of this broad approach, I present another perspective that determines labor policy based on the nature of the job and whether certain groups within a company are better suited to an office or a remote working model.

To investigate, I analyzed our study of returning to work across four different insurance groups: Operations, Sales, Technology, and Human Resources. I also compared the insurance industry with banks and capital markets to see if there were any differences between the industries. I will highlight challenges and considerations in determining the best work model for each group. Of course there is no perfect solution – every company has its own needs. My aim is not to tell you what to do, but to point out how different (or similar) the needs and desires of these four groups can be and how this can complicate a company-wide labor policy.

Return to the office vs. working remotely

Within the insurance:

Before I dive in, a quick note on the research, in order to align our sample size across the four groups, I put banks and capital markets in the insurance technology group while the other three groups are insurance only. The only exception is whenever I compare the three sectors of insurance, banking and capital markets.

When it comes to preferences for working in the office or working remotely, the human resources (HR) department has been the biggest proponent of working in the office: 70% said their employees would prefer to be in the office five days a week get. Management, sales and technology leaders usually decide between three or four days in the office.

This picture becomes more unique when you look at specific questions about rank (junior, mid, senior) and office (front, middle, back). On these issues, there was a clear correspondence in insurance between HR and Operations, which prefers office and sales, and tech, which prefers more remote options.

When it comes to junior employees, 61% of the HR employees surveyed and 36% of the operational employees want these employees to be in the office five days a week. However, only 21% of those surveyed in sales and technology believe that trainees need to be in the office five times a week.

A similar breakdown emerges when asked about front, middle or back office positions: 52% of HR and 45% of operations said they spend four to five days in the office, while 65% of sales employees say they spend a day or two 53% of the tech said two or three days in the office.

Overall, these four groups fall into a spectrum here:

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An important note about the company: While the other three groups seemed to have a consensus, there was a “debate” within the company during the survey. Example: When asked how many days average employees should be in the office, 36% said four days, but 30% said one day. When asked about the back office, 45% of the assignments said four or five days, but 47% said zero to two days in the office.

This debate plays out in the policies of insurers. There does not yet seem to be a large majority consensus across companies. And those who try to get back to the office often delay it. While part of this delay can be attributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases, it also means that insurers as an industry are not confident about which models are developing the best models of work.

Industry comparison:

How similar or different is insurance compared to banks or capital markets? In banking, hiring managers said only 48% of employees would prefer to come to the office five days a week, a significant decrease compared to 70% in the insurance industry. Interestingly, 47% of sales managers in banking also said that their employees would prefer to be in the office five days a week, compared to just 21% of sales managers in insurance.

Overall, banking leaders are slightly more inclined to remote than insurance when comparing banking and insurance, with sales being a notable exception.

If one looks at the capital markets, there are further differences. For example, when asked about working remotely in the front, middle and back offices, insurance operations managers seem quite divided on how many days they would prefer to work in the office. However, the capital market is heavily geared towards remote working. This significant difference applies when comparing HR in the insurance and capital markets, while sales and technology are more closely aligned between the two industries.

Insurance operations

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Capital market transactions

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What does it all mean?

  • Sales: It’s clear that sales teams prefer to work remotely with just a few days in the office. It is likely that the shift to remote work due to COVID-19 sales groups has shown that connecting via technology (zoom, teams, etc.) can be effective. Selling can be much more efficient without having to travel. However, the question remains whether remote / video touchpoints are strong enough in the long term to drive sales. Looking ahead, it is likely that there will be a balance between the efficiency and flexibility of remote selling with the more intimate nature of a face-to-face meeting.
  • Technology: Tech companies 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 the office. Much of the technology requires collaboration across business and IT silos to be available for any crisis and deliver new functionality that customers may or may not have been offered before. Ensuring a shared vision and successful collaborative planning is a large part of what groups need to “get right” whether they continue to work remotely or immerse themselves in hybrid work models. Overall, most technology teams benefit from a balance between office and remote work with a penchant for flexibility for more remote work.
  • Operations: Operations is the trickiest of the four groups. Our return to work data shows a shared preference for in-office or remote work. But that gap is actually a significant lesson that can influence policy. For example, field workers and employees in the works office have different requirements. The field staff does not have to be in the office as often as there are technologies to support day-to-day claims processing. But office workers would likely benefit from a more hybrid model.
  • Human resources: The HR department clearly prefers to work in the office, which fits very well with their overall goals of engaging employees, establishing a healthy culture and being a supportive system.

Cultivating culture with different work models

A key challenge in using different work models for different groups is building and maintaining a strong corporate culture of collaboration and teamwork. Training, office file reviews, and other reasons to put teams together in person will be critical to keeping business running as smoothly as possible.

Ultimately, every company must make the decision that makes the most sense for its specific business. While there is some consensus, it is clear that different groups have different views on working remotely and in-office. There is no one size fits all, so the question arises as to whether managers take these different points of view into account when setting work guidelines or adhere to company-wide guidelines. In my next blog post, I’ll look at employee sentiment data and how it can help determine the best work model for these four groups.

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

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Disclaimer: This content is provided for general informational purposes and is not intended to be used in lieu of advice from our professional advisors.
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