As in-office work rebounds across the United States, employers are trying to figure out what it takes to retain workers in the post-COVID work environment – and according to Nationwide’s latest Agency Forward survey, what employees want most is flexibility around how and where they work.
However, the survey revealed a significant disconnect between management and employees, leading to employee retention challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the so-called Great Resignation, which saw a huge uptick in workers quitting their jobs, changing their careers, and shifting their expectations about what they want from their careers and their employers.
When quizzed about the cause of this trend, 30% of business owners said resignations are due to employees wanting to pursue a passion, while 28% believe employees are just burnt out or don’t have enough work flexibility. However, employees cited things like better job security, stronger cultural fit, or more competitive financial incentives as their top reasons for seeking a new job.
“Three-quarters of US workers received flexibility with how and when they worked during the pandemic, and of those who didn’t have flexibility, 42% considered leaving their jobs as a result,” said Linda Stueber (pictured), senior vice president for commercial lines at Nationwide. “Employers who are able to demonstrate continued flexibility and personalization for employees in their work will be most successful in today’s competitive labor market.”
Stueber noted that “a large generational change” is happening in the workforce as Baby Boomers reach retirement and younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z start to dominate. According to the Nationwide survey, flexibility is particularly important to younger workers, with 62% of Gen Z employees and 51% of Millennial employees saying they would consider leaving based solely on their employer’s return-to-office plans.
Surprisingly, one thing the business owners and employees agree upon is that in-person work provides the most value to the organization. While nearly half of employees agree with that sentiment, only 35% of employees said they would prefer full-time, in-person work post-pandemic, while 35% said they’d like a hybrid environment, and 30% said they’d prefer full-time remote work.
Whatever business owners decide to do, there are several important topics that insurance agents should broach with them around risks relating to the new (likely hybrid) working environment.
“If you're going to have people working from home, or not working in the office, cyber liability insurance continues to be important,” Stueber told Insurance Business. According to Nationwide research, employers said their likelihood for a cyberattack increased during the pandemic, but alarmingly, at least 4-in-10 workers haven’t received training to protect against cyberthreats.
“There’s also an added layer of risk management that firms need to be thinking about if they’re going to have employees working from home […] in terms of making sure they have secure Wi-Fi and appropriate security controls in place,” she added.
“Businesses should also consider off-premises coverage. if you're going to have employees taking materials or equipment [away from the traditional working environment] and into their home, depending on the value of those materials and equipment, are they appropriately insured?”
Another coverage that Stueber believes is essential for companies of all sizes and sectors in today’s constantly changing business environment is private company management liability insurance. This helps to reduce exposure to employment-related liability, which is highly necessary given the disconnect between employer and employee expectations around post-COVID work.
Nationwide has released a whole series of Agency Forward surveys, with the aim of arming retail agents with relevant and up-to-date information so that they can better service their clients.
“One [study] that resonated with me was around how agents need to talk with their customers about their business, ask them what's going on, ask them what's keeping them up at night,” said Stueber. And as businesses prepare for the post-COVID work environment, that type of communication is more important than ever, she added.
“They might need to talk about coverage, they might need to talk about employee benefits - really, it’s about not being afraid to ask customers what’s on their mind, what’s concerning them, and hopefully being able to provide some good counsel and advice on risk management solutions.”