Delta may have damaged post-pandemic return-to-office plans for many industries. For insurers, it appears to be a different story.
Large numbers of companies in many industries plotted a return to the office by this fall after more than 15 months of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, but the highly contagious Delta variant upended many of their plans. Underscoring that point, about 42 percent of workers as of Labor Day weekend said they were worried about returning to the office due to COVID-19 fears, up from 24 percent in June 2021, according to non-profit think tank The Conference Board. The more optimistic June results came in just before the Delta variant took hold in the U.S.
Many Insurers and InsurTechs, at least, are continuing plans Carrier Management reported on in late summer – slow and cautious returns, with hybrid working conditions and work-from home policies as conditions warranted. For many of them, Delta has helped reaffirm their strategies rather than change them outright.
Take The Hanover Insurance Group in Massachusetts, for example. A company spokesperson explained that the insurer continues to keep things flexible for its employees in a program known as Hanover Hybrid Flex, where workers can come to the office full time, part time, or continue working fully remote. Offices continue to be open for those who wish to access them, but for now, only essential and complementary staff are required in all offices.
In the end, The Hanover expects most of its employees to work 2 to 3 days in the office, and 2-3 days remotely. It has also invited employees who haven’t yet returned to the office to start planning their transition this fall, with the understanding that anyone uncomfortable about the Delta variant can still work remotely.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” the spokesperson said.
Hybrid Work Model Remains the Rule
Generali in Italy said it is continuing to focus on a hybrid working model for its offices around the world, Delta or not.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic the safety of our people has been our first priority and it will remain so in the future,” spokesperson Jonathan Heywood told Carrier Management. “We are continuing to develop and implement the hybrid model for our businesses across the world, to be phased in according to local practices and regulations.”
Over at Massachusetts-based Liberty Mutual, a focus on allowing employees to work from home will remain for now, continuing plans in place from over the summer.
“The majority of U.S. employees will continue to work from home through the remainder of the year,” a Liberty Mutual spokesperson said. “Employees may voluntarily access most of our U.S. offices, but must review and adhere to state risk levels and safety protocols.”
Ohio-based Nationwide is also staying the course of keeping a work-from-home element, with a dual focus on social distancing and masks, among other precautions.
“We’re continuing our ongoing efforts to keep our employees safe, which includes wearing masks inside of our buildings when employees are on the move, requiring social distancing, encouraging our employees to get vaccinated and limiting the numbers of employees in our buildings to no more than 50 percent of our workforce at one time,” a Nationwide spokesperson explained.
Delta has helped Ohio-based digital insurer Root, achieve strategic clarity about its evolving hybrid strategy rather than lead to any major changes, according to Tom Kuhn, Root’s director of communications.
“Root has shifted to a “work where you work best” philosophy,” Kuhn explained. “While Root will maintain [its] headquarters in Columbus (Ohio) many roles are open to remote working going forward.”
Kuhn said the company doesn’t yet know the specifics of how this strategy will work, in terms of opening more regional workspaces for collaboration or what the structure of its main Columbus location will be, but one important thing has become clear.
“We have seen that Root employees have thrived when they’ve been given flexibility,” Kuhn said. “It’s an evolution. Delta didn’t shift the strategy as much as it helped us figure out this is where we were already headed.”
Similarly, digital insurer Lemonade said its office plans remain focused on digital/remote operations, whether or not Delta is in play.
“Delta, like the first phases of Covid, did not disrupt Lemonade’s operations as we’re built on a purely digital substrate,” the company said in a brief statement issued to Carrier Management.