Global property & casualty insurer Chubb recently conducted a survey of American workers to see how they’re faring while working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show that most have managed to remain productive, working the same or more hours per day and staying connected with friends, family and colleagues. When the pandemic subsides, a large majority (74%) said they want to work from home more frequently in the future.
But signs of strain are showing. The survey, entitled ‘Resilient, Committed, Engaged and Worried: The Experiences and Risks of Americans Working from Home During COVID–19,’ revealed that many are struggling to find the right work/life balance in the work-from-home environment. There have also been declines in mental health, physical health (largely due to poor ergonomics in home workstations and unhealthy habits like snacking, eating and drinking more), and financial wellbeing. While the Chubb survey only polled Americans (1,202 respondents between the ages of 20 and 65), the trends revealed can be witnessed in many countries around the world.
“We found a disconnect between behaviour and risk in two important areas,” said Sean Ringsted (pictured), chief digital officer and chief risk officer at Chubb. The first risk that has increased greatly in the work-from-home environment is cyber – but the survey shows that most workers are not concerned about it. Despite cyber security experts warning of elevated risks of cyberattacks in the remote work environment, less than half of consumers (46%) said they were concerned about cyber security while using tools to work remotely, and nearly half (49%) say they regularly or sometimes conduct business on personal devices or their personal email account.
The second area of increased risk relates to ergonomics. More than two out of five survey respondents reported feeling new or increased pain in their shoulders, back or wrists since they started working from home. And yet, as Ringsted commented: “While 41% of those working from home are experiencing new or elevated pain in their back, wrists or shoulders, an even larger percentage haven’t taken any steps to improve the ergonomics of their work space at home.”
By sharing the results of their work-from-home survey, Chubb hopes to build awareness to help workers and their employers “take steps to mitigate these and other risks,” Ringsted explained. He added that work-from-home will likely be a long-term trend. While 74% of respondents expressed a desire to telecommute more in the future, the pendulum will likely swing to a “new normal” hybrid model. In finding that balance and thinking about their new operating footprint, companies will have to factor in the risks that have intensified with employees working from home and make sure those risks are oppressed in some way.
With the majority of workers still remote working, “strong company communication is absolutely critical,” stressed Ringsted. He told Insurance Business: “At Chubb, for example, we’ve communicated with employees around the heightened risk of cyber, and given them some tips in terms of how they should think about that when working from home, as well as focusing on the hardware we give employees and how they access it. Communication [is also important for] mental health and wellbeing and giving guidance to employees. It’s all about communication and raising awareness.”
That communication also factors into employee connectivity and engagement – two things enhanced by digital technology throughout the pandemic. According to the Chubb survey, working from home and social distancing haven’t prevented Americans from staying connected. In fact, four out of five (79%) report having the same or more contact with friends and co-workers.
“It’s critical to be able to connect [digitally] across the organisation,” Ringsted commented. “We’re all going through a once in a lifetime experience here; it’s a shared experience, and being able to connect and communicate about that is very important - not just in terms of work discussions, but also on a social level. Employees need to be able to see and hear from their leaders, from management, and to be able to interact with colleagues, whether it’s through video conferencing, virtual whiteboards, chat functions and so on. All of these tools have become very important.
“It’s not just about business, but about how you can create social interactions with your work colleagues. As we go longer with this [work-from-home] setup, I think that communication becomes even more important because people will change roles or new people will come into the organisation, and being able to keep up the social fabric of the company culture is so important. Right now, until we can get a normal work environment back, [we need to maintain a] work environment backed by these digital tools so that employees get that collaboration and connectivity. People want to feel connected.”