Major players in the insurance industry are developing their plans for a “smart working revolution.” Companies have learned from their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they adjusted to teams working from home and are keen to take a more strategic approach to the hybrid challenge.
Flexibility seems to be at the heart of the strategic response of many carriers, balancing business and employee needs around:
- Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion stay at the top of the agenda.
- Retaining focus on development and bench strength.
- Maintaining and improving productivity.
- Collaboration and socialization.
- Making optimal use of real estate.
- Maintaining and improving well-being.
- Managing safety.
So, the hybrid way of working is almost inevitable. But that’s not to say that the blended approach won’t present challenges. How can we adapt and make the most out of what seems inevitable?
Here are some suggestions for managing the human capital side of things.
Problem: Favoritism and preferential treatment for those in the office
- Level the playing field in team meetings. Have everyone join team calls from their own computer at their own workstation. It’s tempting for in-office colleagues to sit around the putative boardroom table together while colleagues working from home dial in. But we all know that the remote experience is not the same, so level out the experience for all.
- Have a Yoda. That wise guru character from the “Star Wars” franchise has a place in team meetings. Rotate the role of the wise inclusion champion who can address microaggressions, interrupting and behaviors that may exclude.
Problem: Collaborative and “stretch” tasks are given to in-office colleagues
- Look out for presentist bias—offering preference and opportunity to those who are present and visible. Record the opportunities, record who gets what, and identify the patterns.
- Offer meaningful problem-solving tasks for all. A recent HBR article focused on motivation and how team members’ motivation dipped when they had no choice in where they worked. The hybrid challenge may well exacerbate this phenomenon. The research indicated that giving all colleagues the opportunity to be creative and solve real business problems may well be the answer, whether working from home or in the office.
- Put career development back on the agenda. The initial response to lockdowns was often to focus on delivery, outputs and outcomes; career development seemed like a luxury we could no longer afford. As the situation eases and we move to hybrid models, we need to get careers and development back on track—and not just the development of those who are in the office.
Problem: Technology and meeting fatigue
- Learn from royalty and have stand-up meetings. The UK’s Queen Victoria had a limited attention span during Privy Council meetings, so she famously told her privy councillors (long-winded politicians) that they should stand. The meetings became shorter and more focused. The same principle is being applied to huddle or scrum stand-up meetings that are short, sharp and to the point. More frequent but shorter meetings may be the future…so history tells us.
- Use the cream of the morning brain. Author Virginia Woolf recognized that many of us are more creative in the morning. Team meetings that focus on collaboration and complex interactions should be reserved for earlier in the day when our social skills and attention are more available.
- Monitor your micro-expressions. We are increasingly invited to turn our cameras on and use headsets and earbuds in meetings to reduce fatigue and get closer to the face-to-face experience. Be aware that your every eye roll and tut will be amplified by the technology. Psychologists use the term “leakage” to describe our unintentional messaging. Stop the dripping tap and remember that you are very much on show.