Hybrid workplaces in the Canadian property and casualty insurance industry haven’t changed all that much since the pandemic receded from media headlines 17 months ago. And generally speaking, P&C professionals seem satisfied with their current hybrid arrangements.
Canadian Underwriter surveyed more than 600 industry professionals online in October 2023. About 91% reported working in a hybrid office, defined as working from home at least one day a week.
About 68% said they were either very satisfied (46%) or satisfied (22%) with their current hybrid work arrangement.
“We get the best of both modes,” one respondent said of the strength of their hybrid office model. “When we need concentration to perform, we work at home. And when we need mental stimulation, energy, team spirit and collaboration, we go to the office.”
What hybrid looks like now
The P&C industry reported most commonly working in the office two days a week (26% of respondents), which is up 6% from the 20% who reported this in May 2022.
The number of P&C professionals working in the office three days a week dipped slightly in 2023 (from about 22% to 19%), while the number who work in the office five days a week increased from 10% in May 2022 to 17% in October 2023.
Just under a quarter of P&C professionals (22%) said they still work purely remotely. That’s down slightly from about 25% who reported the same in our May 2022 survey.
Getting the balance right
Anonymous comments in the survey show the industry is still trying to strike the right balance between employee flexibility and autonomy, building in-person work relationships with colleagues, and workplace productivity.
One managing leader in the survey observed the hybrid model gave employees more control over their work environments.
“We are putting the choice in the hands of the employee,” the person wrote. “It has been empowering. In many instances, it has freed up time to do other things, as we are much more intentional about the way we interact. It has forced us to up our communication methods, which has been great to get everyone who was working across four offices on an equal playing field and all having the same experience.”
And for many employees, the hybrid model offers a better work-life balance.
“Working from home allows me to save expenses on childcare, transportation, business-wear expenses, and allows me to work from home when children are sick, meaning I’m more available to my employer than if I was required to work in the office,” one industry employee reported. “I do not need to take as many sick days. I am more reliable and dependable.”
The social office: pros and cons
Team-building appeared to be a double-edged sword in the survey. Some liked the collaboration with colleagues and the mentorship that flows from that, citing that as a strength in their hybrid model.
“There is a lot of knowledge being shared when you are in-person, and you are able to hear for example how the senior staff interact with our insureds or broker force,” as one respondent put it.
Related: How Canada’s P&C industry is reacting to the hybrid office
Seventy per cent in the survey reported feeling either very engaged (25%) or engaged (45%) with their colleagues in the office.
But others said collaboration in the office could also result in reduced workplace productivity.
“The office space is very loud (we were used to quiet home offices), and colleagues are not mindful of others,” said one industry professional. “Less work gets done in the office while colleagues are socializing. Teams were reorganized to report into different locations across Canada, resulting in video conferencing now from their desks. I personally do not work with anyone on a day-to-day basis in the physical office building.”
By the same token, some felt productivity fell because employees worked from home. And some said people in the brokerage office were unfairly saddled with the work of those who choose to work from home.
“In comments made, daily housework chores are completed throughout the day when the employee should be at their home workstation,” said one brokerage employee. “Those who are in the office are looking after other employees’ client walk-ins. If a client is coming in to sign applications or forms, I feel their broker should be making arrangements to meet with them in the office.”
In the survey, about 54% of P&C industry professionals reported being either very efficient (18%) or efficient (36%) when they worked in the office. Twenty per cent were on the fence, whereas 26% reported being either very inefficient (8%) or inefficient (18%) in the office.
Those working from home said they worked on average an extra one or two hours a day.
In a world where qualified employees are in short supply, many employees remain covetous of their ability to work from home, the survey found. And employers beware: Working from home is widely seen as a reason to seek employment elsewhere.
About 53% of those surveyed said they would consider changing jobs if their employers required the to work more often in the office than they do now. Twenty-eight per cent said they wouldn’t make a move, and 19% said they weren’t sure if they would move.
“Some colleagues are dissatisfied with ANY return to the office, so I guess a weakness [of a hybrid model] is that some colleagues decide to look for employment elsewhere that offers fully remote opportunities,” as one P&C professional put it. “To date, I am not aware of any colleagues leaving our organization for a fully remote role.”
Feature image courtesy of iStock.com/Meeko Media