‘Pivot’ has been one of the key buzzwords associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and while the global health crisis introduced scores of challenges for businesses, a silver lining has been many companies’ ability to adapt in the face of massive changes to the way we live and work.
“All industries have had to pivot, and what we’re realizing more and more is that a lot of companies can be run virtually, and that is something we weren’t sure of going into this,” said Joan Woodward (pictured), executive vice president of public policy for Travelers and president of The Travelers Institute. “I think there’s a greater comfort now with understanding that businesses and the people running those businesses can really step up to the challenge.”
The Travelers Institute knows firsthand the changes that COVID-19 has prompted in operations. Its teams and educational sessions likewise went virtual in 2020, though not without some personal and professional hurdles.
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In particular, it has been difficult for many people to navigate the convergence of home and work life introduced by the pandemic. Woodward personally has four kids and knows the struggle of “trying to work in our own little spaces and finding a corner in the house.” Nonetheless, she said, “Teams and people want to be connected … and we’ve done that almost seamlessly … As a company we transitioned literally overnight to a virtual environment, and we tried our best to support our agents and brokers.”
Besides introducing creative ways to keep its teams engaged, Woodward also pointed to how Travelers has been providing relief for its customers throughout the pandemic, such as by offering auto premium credits to account for the fact that people haven’t been driving as much as over the past year.
In the meantime, interest in Travelers Institute programming has remained high, especially considering the new challenges that most industries are currently facing.
“I think there’s a thirst out there for hearing what Travelers is thinking and what our risk managers are telling clients, and we’ve been able to bring that to life,” said Woodward.
Going forward, the leader said that challenges associated with the pandemic will continue – especially for small businesses, of which Travelers is a major insurer – though she also noted that “small business owners are entrepreneurs, and there’s a lot of new businesses being created [amid] the pandemic.”
The recovery of businesses in North America and around the world will, however, depend on a critical factor and a question that remains to be answered, which is to what degree governments will become involved in helping to sustain economic recovery, and whether efforts to distribute the vaccine will be enough to get people and businesses back on track.
On a positive note, the economic impacts from the pandemic have not sunk economies into another global financial crisis, like the one witnessed in 2008 that brought on significant unemployment and put the financial sector on the whole under intense pressure and scrutiny.
As a result, explained Woodward, “Looking into 2021, I do expect the economy to rebound quite nicely after widespread distribution of the vaccines.”