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More workers are seeking—and gaining—remote work.

Executive Summary

In a tight, competitive labor market, insurers need to appeal to what job seekers want. Fortunately, their needs are not that hard to meet, says WAHVE CEO Sharon Emek, who advocates remote work for insurance carriers. Here, she describes mentoring and knowledge benefits that retirement-age workers offer to carriers that provide step-down transitional retirement options and broader benefits of remote work options for all age groups, such as the ability to grow workforces outside or geographic borders.

(Editor’s Notes: WAHVE is a provider of remote talent. This article was written before businesses recently began putting temporary remote work practices in place to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks. The article addresses the appeal of work-from-home policies outside of crisis management situations like pandemic containment.)

In fact, the level to which today’s employees are working remotely has grown exponentially. Global Workplace Analytics data reveals that the work-at-home, non-self-employed worker population has grown 173 percent between 2005 and 2018—11 percent more than the rest of the workforce and 47 times faster than self-employment.

Some companies have already begun the transformation of their workforce. An Upwork report shows that 63 percent of companies have remote workers. That same report reveals that five times as many hiring managers expect more of their employees to be working remotely within the next 10 years.

Good thing, too. A Buffer & AngelList survey of over 3,500 remote workers reveals that 98 percent of workers surveyed want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. That includes retirement-aged employees: The Global Workplace Analytics study found that 71 percent of retired workers who returned to work had originally retired because they’d wanted more flexibility than their job offered. The study also found that 75 percent of retirees want to continue to work—but they want the flexibility to enjoy their retirement.

Why It Matters to Insurers

That is a lot of talent that insurers could recapture and re-employ through remote working arrangements. The Upwork survey found that nearly 39 percent of hiring managers had a tougher time finding talent in 2018 than in the previous year. In such an environment, re-engaging already trained, knowledgeable employees could be the best first step to filling talent gaps. With the talent deficit expected in the United States (across all industries) to top six million by 2030, according to Korn Ferry data, any step toward attracting or retaining talent by insurers is needed.

“By adding remote workers to your current workforce, you can gain valuable insights into which positions—and which employee personalities—would be best suited to remote work.”

A Gallup State of the American Workforce Report (2017) states that 37 percent of workers would change jobs for positions offering flexible working locations on a part-time basis; 35 percent would switch jobs to have an off-site, full-time flexible work location option.

The Onramp for Insurers

Fortunately, insurers can do plenty right now to meet the needs of today’s job seekers, retain key talent, and re-engage retired or retiring employees. To gain competitive advantage in a tough labor market, insurers can:

Use remote workers to augment current workforce. As mentioned previously, insurers can start right now with plans to re-engage retired, retiring or other key employees in remote positions. By offering retiring employees a step-down transitional retirement option, insurers can keep their skills and knowledge on the job. Plus, these veteran, skilled workers can serve as mentors to the newer class of employees.

Likewise, flexible schedules can attract new employees and improve retention rates among your existing employee population. That can be in the form of shorter workdays, varying start times and part-time remote work arrangements for employees looking to phase into retirement or work from home a few days each week.

Start smaller scale by augmenting current workforce with remote workers to fill in gaps. One of the smartest ways to implement remote working arrangements is by adding remote workers to your current workforce. Doing so helps ease your company into the practice of managing remote workers and allows you to establish protocols for transitioning more employees into remote positions later. Plus, you can gain valuable insights into which positions—and which employee personalities—in your organization would be best suited to remote work.

Tap into nationwide network of job seekers. The real benefit of a remote workforce is the lack of limitations. Without borders, you can attract right-fit experience and skills without needing that employee to relocate. Remote workers aren’t bound by geography, so your company can access a wider pool of candidates ranging in age from millennials to retiring and retired industry veterans.

More Insurer Benefits

Another consideration for remote working arrangements: Happy employees produce much better results. The Global Workplace Analytics data show several companies report substantially increased productivity coming from remote workers. Several studies back up that report: a 2015 survey report from cloud provider Connect Solutions revealed that 77 percent (of the 353 people surveyed) who work remotely believe they are more productive when working remotely, and 30 percent believe they accomplish more in less time while working remotely.

Not only are employees more productive, but they’re also happier. A 2019 Owl Labs survey reveals that 71 percent of remote workers are happy in their jobs, and they were more likely to stay in their current jobs for the next five years—13 percent more likely than on-site workers in that same poll.

If that’s not convincing enough, there’s the cost savings to using remote working arrangements. A remote worker saves on average $2,000-$7,000 annually in commuting costs, and businesses save on overhead costs—an average $11,000 annually per telecommuting employee, says Global Workplace Analytics data.

In a tight labor market, insurers can use remote working arrangements to attract job seekers. Yet that’s not the only opportunity in using remote talent. By shifting to a remote working arrangement, insurers can retain existing talent and re-engage retiring and retired talent. Plus, employees able to work remotely are paying back their employers with increased productivity and plenty of job satisfaction. That means insurers can improve employee retention and recruiting and improve costs while sending the message that employees are valued commodities.