Before COVID-19, nearly one-quarter of the US workforce was already working from home at least part-time. Now that the number has skyrocketed, many insurance agencies are facing new and sudden challenges.
Working from home, or the common acronym, WFH, can provide many benefits, including increased flexibility, time saved by avoiding a commute, and more time with family. But there are also several pitfalls: difficulty communicating efficiently, lack of access to information, lack of supervision (causing anxiety for both managers and employees), and social isolation.
As insurance agents, we’re fortunate to already have some of the infrastructures in place for supporting remote employees (e.g., electronic applications, quoting and enrollment portals, etc.) According to predictions from “Upwork’s Future Workforce Report,” 73 percent of all teams in the US will have remote workers by 2028. There is no better time than now to prepare ourselves for what could be the future of communicating with our beneficiaries and our team members. Here are some tips to make the most of your WFH status today:
From status meetings and lunchtime walks to unscheduled pop-bys and drop-ins, the office naturally lends itself to facetime with employees. Without those ordinary prompts for interaction, however, remote workers can easily feel adrift. That’s why it’s important to establish daily or near-daily check-ins with employees.
You can choose the time of day and communication form (video versus phone call) that works for your team. Harvard Business Review explains: “The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you and that their concerns and questions will be heard.”
Communication Tools & Ground Rules
Email and telephone calls are just the tipping points for connecting with remote staff. The most successful managers of remote teams also take advantage of various forms of technology: video applications like Zoom and Google Hangouts, instant messaging apps like Slack and Basecamp, and document sharing tools like Google Drive and Dropbox.
Together, they provide a more vibrant connection with colleagues. Video, for example, is better for communicating about sensitive topics, where visual, emotional cues can get lost in voice-only calls. Video may also enhance our ability to learn new information.
On the other side of the spectrum, messaging apps like Slack allow for casual and quick communication, which can be critical for time-sensitive matters.
Set Up Dedicated Workspace
Pick a spot for your office. It doesn’t have to have a door, but it should be away from distraction. It’s not easy to replicate the atmosphere of the office, but try to set yourself up so you can work as comfortably and efficiently as possible.
Designating a space will not only facilitate your transition to “work” mode, but it also establishes boundaries with other people at home, like your partner, roommate, or kids. Of course, your 4-year old may not sufficiently respect “Mommy’s office time,” but some physical cues may help.
Emphasize Work/Life Balance
As Harvard Business Review points out, the increased flexibility of WFH doesn’t always translate to a more balanced life.
“Remote workers often experience high work intensity and reduced autonomy due to their ability to communicate with colleagues through their devices at any time.”
Arguably, it’s more important than ever to stress to employees that you value their right to disconnect at the end of the workday. Try to uphold the same office hours as usual, and if you do find yourself firing off a late-night email, include in the subject line: No need for immediate reply.
For people who are accustomed to working in an office, the evening commute provides a natural transition. At home, it’s crucial to find new ways to create that same adjustment— even if it’s just moving to another spot on the couch.
Continue to foster the same culture you’ve created for your insurance agency by showing your team you’re still available and providing them with the tools they need to continue to work with their beneficiaries. To learn more about making the transition to WFH and telephonic sales, give us a call at 800-962-4693.