Even though representatives of Lloyd’s of London prepared the world for the news last year, last month’s headlines prompted some stunned reactions.
One of those headlines—”Lloyd’s Weighs Future of Headquarters as Market Embraces Flexible Working“—introduced an article posted on Carrier Management‘s website.
“Oh noooooo….!!!!!” wrote one commenter on LinkedIn, giving a two-word response to someone’s post of a similar article in the Financial Times.
“This would be a disaster. People do business with people, not monitors!” wrote another after reading the post of yet another article from Sky News.
Lloyd’s is not the first insurance entity to contemplate vacating a building in which veteran underwriters and other professionals worked for much of their careers. Last October, Allstate said it planned to sell its headquarters building. “Allstate’s employees have more choice about where they work, and many are choosing to work from home,” a spokesperson said before the carrier closed a deal to sell in November.
In April 2020, insurer Nationwide began exiting most buildings outside of four main campuses and moving associates in these locations to permanent remote-working status.
For Lloyd’s, a review of “leasing arrangements” was a scheduled activity for 2022 set out as part of a Future of Lloyd’s initiative to redesign the underwriting room. “The decision to undertake this journey has been driven by the increasing trends of flexible working and digitalization, which have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Chief Executive John Neal in his forward to an April 2021 report on an extensive market consultation that took place in first-quarter 2021 to gather insights and ideas about the future space requirements and marketplace needs.
Work from home—or somewhere other than the company headquarters or signature building—is becoming a reality that workers embrace. But within the C-suite, chief financial officers and other leaders have differing views about the tradeoff between gaining real estate income and losing cultural interactions and training opportunities. Here are some of the views documented in the Lloyd’s report voiced by market participants on culture and talent issues:
“Culture must be a key feature of the future experience—maintaining the camaraderie, vibrancy, and an inclusive sense of belonging the Underwriting Room environment creates to support commercial and personal interactions.”
“Market participants benefit from serendipitous encounters and ‘osmotic learning’ that physical proximity promotes.”
“The learnings gained through the Underwriting Room cannot be replicated artificially—this is fundamental to attracting, retaining, and developing the next generation.”
In our January digital edition, we offered one insurer’s solution to the problems that remote work creates for training and developing the next generation of junior underwriters.
As for culture, camaraderie and team building, in this edition, strategy consultants and C-suite officers share perspectives on the need for an industrywide culture refresh that embraces “asynchronous work” arrangements and strategies for synching the new work environments with customer and employee engagement goals. And they weigh in on the need for a new addition to the senior team—a head of remote work.
But freedom to work from anywhere will still have its downsides. Remember when you could peek over the cubicle wall to see if your work neighbor wanted to shoot the breeze? Old routines are being replaced by the search for a green dot on Microsoft Teams showing that your teammate’s status is “available.”
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has other ideas. Gates described his interest in “how technology can recreate more spontaneity with remote work” in a Dec. 7 “year in review” blog item on gatesnotes.com, advancing the idea of a second computer screen to initiate unplanned conversations from your living room or kitchen table office. “You could have a feed of all six of you sitting in your home offices working. You could look at the screen to see what everyone is doing (except when someone wants privacy and turns the camera off). When someone seems like they’re free to talk, you could just click on their video, zoom in and start chatting.”
It’s hard to imagine. But so is the ever-changing work environment that carriers are dealing with today.
This edition reveals how your peers are adjusting.