Boosted sales, lower burnout and fatigue, and higher employee satisfaction – they’re just some of the potential benefits of a shorter working week, and now there’s data to prove it.
The four-day work week made global headlines after companies trialling the scheme in the US and Ireland saw impressive results. The six-month experiment – the largest pilot of the working pattern so far – saw more than 3,000 people working fewer hours for 100% pay. But would it work for the insurance industry?
“Every executive sitting at the top of an organization must come to grips with the reality that the workplace expectations are shifting. It's more quality-of-life focused, and less bottom-line focused,” said Jeff Arnold (pictured directly below), founder of Rightsure Insurance Group. The Arizona-based independent insurance agency has been named one of the Top Insurance Employers by Insurance Business America (IBA).
“When I was growing up, if your employer asked you for 50 hours, you gave them 60 hours. That's just how it was. But things are changing,” Arnold continued. “The number one thing leaders are going to be looking at is how does [a four-day work week] impact profitability.”
Insurance leaders have come to a crossroads with workplace set-ups in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations are wrangling over hybrid schemes or even a full return to on-site work. A condensed work week could create fresh upheaval for employers. But for Arnold, the industry should keep an open mind.
“I am for anything that increases employee retention and productivity, and adds value to the organization,” he said. “People and culture matter, and you want to be a good workplace culture. But at the end of the day, you need to create a profit. If at some point, a strategy only trips one of those levers, then there’s a conflict.”
For Jenny Lopez-Rogina (pictured directly below), AVP and director of operations at Specialty Comp Insurance Solutions (SCIS), the issue really boils down to work-life balance. SCIS also made IBA’s list of Top Insurance Employers.
“We are a service-based organization and highly customer-focused. Instead of zeroing in on the number of days in a work week, I like to examine the necessary work-life balance components that would keep employees engaged and productive while also being available to our customers,” Lopez-Rogina said.
None of the companies that participated in the four-day work week pilot, most in the UK are going back to the five-day model. But the data set is still small, Arnold argued. “We need more studies. I don't think we have definitive North American feedback yet,” he said.
“Our industry is bound to effective dates and last-minute quote requests. The turnaround time in our business is one of the key drivers of success,” Lopez-Rogina added, saying that SCIS has embraced a five-day work week with built-in flexibility.
Hiring and retention challenges remain
The buzz around the four-day work week comes amid a global insurance talent war. Talent recruitment and retention, already an urgent priority for insurance companies, have become more challenging since the pandemic re-shuffled workers’ priorities and ushered a ‘Great Resignation’.
Naturally, organizations are assessing all the tools available to attract the best talent and create the workplace culture that entices them to stay. One step towards achieving this is collaborating with current employees.
“Ask the questions to your people. Don’t implement a top-down approach over how the workplace is going to look, but gather feedback and insight,” Arnold advised. “You have to always be ‘re-recruiting’ your existing people because if you don’t, someone else is going to.”
Lopez-Rogina said that organizations should encourage employees to work smarter, not harder. “A flexible workweek that offers work-life balance is a good formula to success,” she told Insurance Business. “Allow employees to fit in that run or walk in the morning before plugging in or attend their kids’ play at school. A happy, less stressed employee is one that is productive, engaged, and loyal.”
Arnold stressed giving employees the two kinds of income that they need to feel secure in organizations: their financial compensation, and what he calls “psychic income.”
“Psychic income is equally as important as money. It is letting people know they're valued and appreciated, as well as showing them where they're at. A great coach is great because he tells you what you don't want to hear. We must be coaching and counselling our employees,” Arnold said.
Unlike financial compensation, psychic income – in the form of regular feedback, praise, and leadership and learning opportunities – can be more freely given.
“As an organization, we are highly transparent and honest with our employees, and our culture is one that provides a conflict-free environment with a high level of trust,” Lopez-Rogina said. “We take every opportunity to thank our team and let them know that they are appreciated.”