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A favorite analogy of mine concerns a mason jar filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand. The rocks represent the most important things in life. The pebbles are valued, but not crucial to a full life. The sand represents all the little things we convince ourselves are important - the appointments, the material possessions, the things we do out of habit. Filling our jars with sand leaves no room for the rocks.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided, perhaps more clearly than ever before, a clearer sense of what pieces of our life are rocks and what pieces have been sand all along. As the business world contemplates returning to in-person work, it’s important that we continue to ask ourselves what pieces of our pre-pandemic routines are rock and which are sand.
At Risk Strategies, we have been discussing our ‘return to office’ strategy for over a year. We are risk management professionals, after all. With over 2,500 employees, 100+ offices, a North American footprint, and significant growth and expansion, the decision-making about our own business and associates needs to be as thoughtful and thorough as the counsel we give our clients. As a company that specializes in assessing, analyzing, and managing risk, we are moving forward with caution and careful consideration, consulting our team of experts every step of the way. We hope that by sharing our expertise we can help limit exposures and potential losses for businesses everywhere.
Focus on Two-Way Communication
Any business leader wondering how best to return to in-office work should begin by developing an effective two-way communication strategy with their employees. Share plans, ask questions, gather feedback. We as leaders need to be cognizant of any unease and empathetic to our team’s circumstances. We have a business to run and at the same time we need employees to who want to work there. Companies choosing not to listen to their employees’ concerns are likely to suffer. Employees who feel unsafe and unheard will vote with their feet.
To preserve culture and make the transition back into the office as safe and seamless as possible, Risk Strategies beta-tested a program called ‘Ways of Working’, and we are now rolling this out company-wide. This program empowers our employees to choose between primarily working remote or returning to the office. The decision is in the hands of each employee. We believe what is good for our employees is good for our clients and good for business overall. A positive work environment will help us attract and retain top talent and ensure that our working life is fulfilling and positive for all associates. Our ‘new normal’ work environment will be developed in concert with our associates.
Control What You Can
At Risk Strategies, we are committed to creating a safe and supportive work environment by striking the balance between safety and preserving our strong culture of collaborative solutioning that we built pre-pandemic. We have workplace policies in place that will evolve in conjunction with CDC guidelines and local and state rules and are focused on supporting employee wellness and health through a variety of programs. Overall, we are staying in touch and support one another with virtual conferences and weekly/monthly training and programs.
In a time when so much is out of our hands, business leaders can work to improve the things within their control. We can’t sanitize the subway system, but we can work to make our offices safe. We can encourage our employees to focus on and take a proactive approach to managing their health and wellness.
Ditch the ‘Artifacts’
We are unlikely to work as we once did. Before the pandemic, I spent four days a week traveling, waking up in a new city every night. While I will certainly travel again, I won’t return to that schedule. Not only is it draining, it is no longer the most effective way to do business, and is far from the most efficient.
Even before COVID-19 forced business operations fully online, the way we work was changing. In the insurance industry before the internet, most deals were made in-person. Slowly, as the technology became available, more meetings moved online. The pandemic pushed us to fully adopt virtual communications and cemented its place in business operations. Conducting business virtually, selling over video calls, remote working, are all here to stay.
My advice to those reluctant to change: recognize what is an artifact of a different time and what is essential. Adapt, embrace the power of the virtual world, or lose out on a world of opportunity.
The Light is Getting Brighter
For months, people have been excitedly saying “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel”. With vaccinations rates up and case counts down in the United States, that light is getting brighter. I’m proud of how Risk Strategies has overcome the enormous challenges of the past eighteen months. All business leaders, in fact, have accomplished a Herculean feat simply by making it through.
As we move into the next phase, a post-COVID work environment, risk management should be top of mind for all businesses. In the coming months, our leaders will speak to issues facing industries and the insurance market as the world re-opens, providing recommendations and highlighting crucial considerations. Risk Strategies is not “just” an insurance brokerage, we are a consultancy, a holistic business resource and partner. If you need help separating the rocks from the sand, you know who to call.
Please, join us for future installments of ‘The Other Side’ blog series. We will explore what lies ahead for impacted industries as re-openings advance.