AUB Group is not the first big insurance industry company to adopt a formal policy around flexible work practices. However, CEO Mike Emmett (pictured above) may have been the first insurance industry leader to devote part of a final year results presentation to explain in detail his hybrid work model.
“There’s no question the pandemic has been challenging to workforces and we’ve used this as an opportunity to transform our work practices and to implement policies that rely on a fundamental trust in employees,” said the CEO, at the late August investor presentation.
Read more: AUB Group publishes FY21 financial results
AUB, one of Australasia’s largest broker and underwriting agencies, now has a standard practice of allowing employees to work from home for four days a week. Emmett said the aim, post-COVID 19, is for teams to work together in a shared space on one pre-planned day of the week.
Emmett touched on a range of measures AUB has implemented to improve the remote working experience for employees.
“We’ve provided them with financial assistance to improve their home work environments, activated ongoing fortnightly allowances to cover additional personal costs such as increased utilities, provided remote ergonomic assessments with bespoke advice and implemented a number of technology enabled tools to support remote working,” he explained.
He said these tools include virtual productivity and video conferencing software, as well as what he described as employee engagement, mental and physical health solutions, and virtual fitness challenges.
“We’ve added flexibility to our leave policies, including providing bonus leave for team members that have used up all their leave, and also offering bonus leave as an incentive to those that are fully vaccinated,” said Emmett.
Hybrid work models, like AUB’s, are the future according to a survey of 50 of Australia’s largest companies by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. In the survey, a clear majority of companies expected to continue allowing employees to work at least part of the week from home once the pandemic ends.
One of the companies in the survey was IAG. The insurance industry giant’s flexible working practices date back to 2017. By mid-April last year, the company reported that 98% of its employees across Australia and New Zealand were working from home.
“What is clear at IAG, as with many other organisations, is that many people would like to retain the ability to work from home either permanently or with a mixture of working from home and an IAG office, and, where possible, we will support this,” said the FY21 Annual Review and Safer Communities Report, released in August.
As a result of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, the company recently introduced visual assessments of people’s workplace set-up, a stronger focus on staying connected with other employees and supporting what it calls ‘positive wellbeing.’
“Our continued focus on the future of work and emerging risks will ensure ongoing support for flexible and permanent working from home arrangements for our people,” said, MyFlex, an official IAG company blog.
Another big insurer in the hybrid work survey, Suncorp, has also embraced a hybrid workplace.
“Suncorp Group will continue to offer its employees the choice to work from home after a year of lockdowns and remote working,” said a feature on the company website.
However, across the insurance industry, business is built on personal relationships and face-to-face meetings. Brokers have told Insurance Business that remote working and the new reliance on mobile phones and video conferencing has made doing business more difficult.
So beyond the pandemic, where does the balance lie between working from home and working in the office?
“I absolutely can’t see that the whole marketplace is going to end up being totally remote,” said Nick Cunningham (pictured immediately above), CEO of Elantis Premium Funding.
Cunningham warns that too much remote working will likely have negative consequences for the insurance industry.
“Ultimately, I think that employers will see a deterioration in training and development and a deterioration in networking and engagement if we continue working remotely on a permanent basis,” he said.
“So I think employers will want people back in the office and I think employees will want to come back in. The key will be that workspaces need to be reflective of the new working environment. So, there’ll still need to be flexibility, I don’t think anyone will be back to five days a week [in the office],” he said.
Cunningham is expressing more than just an educated opinion. Elantis, just won 2021 best place to work in a survey by workplace research and consulting firm WRK+. More than 100 companies took part in the survey.