Q&A - Insurance Workplaces 2020
Updated: Aug 20
It's been several months now since the Coronavirus-compelled shutdown.
Many companies had to completely close their businesses or transform their office operations into 100% remote work. However, after some restrictions had been lifted, many workers across the U.S. in different industries are being asked to return to their offices. With much still unknown and many moving variables, there is major concern with the safety and functionality of the office workplace.
Recently, the Formcraft team had an opportunity to interview Farmers of Salem, a regional mutual insurance company and discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on their organization.
Farmers of Salem has been providing insurance solutions and service for more than 160 years and specializes in insurance for home and business owners. Here is what Bill Dine, the VP of Business Operations at Farmers of Salem had to say about the current realities of today’s insurance workplaces.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected your business? Are you busier?
A: “It was a huge disruption in that typically only 30-40% of our staff telecommuted prior to COVID. We had to quickly change gears so that everyone could work remotely. Thankfully, we had the technology in place, so it only took one morning to get our team operational. We have been busier because certain tasks just take longer now because a lack of having two monitors-it dramatically shows down efficiency. We did experience a bit of a drop in business but things are definitely starting to pick back up again.”
Q: What long-term effects will the current situation have on the insurance industry?
A: "Our particular line of business is P&C (Property & Casualty). We are a bit behind in the insurance business in terms of automation, and this needs to be accelerated. For example, the use of 3rd parties for policy processing. Policy processing used to require someone on-site, in the future, with automation, this will all be done offsite by a 3rd party. Other lines of business in insurance have already started using automation but P&C is a bit behind in this for some reason."
Q: What do you hear about the state of the insurance industry as a result of COVID19?
A: "Our industry is financially strong. After the last financial crisis (GFC) a lot of regulation was done to strengthen the industry. There is/was a bit of uncertainty around whether certain types of Insurance would be forced to be provided where there wasn't already coverage – in particular, business interruption insurance. But there seems to be a bit of clarity in regards to this, so overall, the industry is doing well from their perspective."
Q: What are the main challenges insurance companies experience with their workspace?
A: "Accommodating growth and providing a mix of privacy and collaboration. If you were in an open environment prior to COVID, you would probably have to re-think how you are going to provide social distancing. Probably more enclosed offices will be needed. There will definitely be WFH going into the future, so how to continue with that and accommodate it will be interesting."
Q: What did Farmers try to achieve in terms of relocation/renovations?
A: "We needed to attract newer younger talent, the future underwriters, and claims adjusters, and these people seemed to be looking to live near their place of employment plus have access to entertainment, food, shopping, and nightlife, etc. Wilmington was the best choice for us – we are buying a larger building that will allow us to provide a nice space for people to work, plus access to nearby amenities. We can go shopping, or stay for dinner after work, or have access to entertainment. Our move allowed us to step back and explore what trends might have been and then provide a space that supports our workflow and business requirements."
There is no question that COVID-19 has impacted every industry, some more significantly than others. Some businesses have increased revenue as a result, and some are rather off-target. Like many other industries, the insurance sector should look at how to balance both working remotely and working in the office to grow their success. Research shows the common and strong perceived value in balancing both places of work.
We recently polled more than two hundred people at Philadelphia area companies. Here is what we've learned:
82% of poll participants believe that remote working will continue to play an increased role for their organization post-COVID-19.
55% of poll participants believe that there is a significant level of change that will happen to the design and layout of the workplace as a result of COVID-19.
To see more findings of the post-COVID workplace, click here and download the "Insurance Workplaces 2020 & Beyond" whitepaper, where we discuss topics such as working from home vs. working in the office and ways wellness design can improve health & safety.