How the insurance industry can prioritize mental health

Employers need to "create space" for mental health participation

How the insurance industry can prioritize mental health

Life & Health

By Nicole Panteloucos

With Mental Health Awareness Month approaching in May, it's crucial to consider how employers can contribute to promoting wellbeing across the insurance industry.

Post-COVID remote work has allowed employees to work from home, blurring the lines between their professional duties and personal lives. This shift, coupled with the inherently customer service-oriented nature of insurance, can result in increased stress levels for professionals.

Newfront executives Robyn Cross, vice president, wellbeing practice lead, and Linde Hotchkiss, executive vice president, regional managing director, and a member of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) Los Angeles Regional Forum Planning Committee, spoke with Insurance Business to provide insights on how employers can prioritize work-life balance for their teams.

Employee resource groups and mental health days

While remote work offers flexibility, Cross (pictured above left) pointed out its downside, saying, "There's value that remote work brings, because it means we can design our day to day around our individual needs, but the consequence of that is, then work can come with you everywhere."

She added that disconnecting from work can be challenging, especially for those in customer-facing roles like insurance.

"We care about our clients. So, there's a part of us that doesn't want to get too far away from the work, because we want to be able to be of service," said Cross.

To help employees tackle the stress of balancing personal and work responsibilities, it's crucial to foster a culture of empathy and understanding.

Hotchkiss (pictured above right) emphasized the need for employers to adapt to new styles of work, which may not fit the traditional 9-to-5 structure.

"The new norm might be somebody gets online and works from six to seven then takes their kids to school, and then works from eight to noon and takes a little break and comes back online. It’s about trying to figure out ways in our industry where eight hours of work can happen over more flexible timeframes."

Hotchkiss highlighted Newfront's commitment to mental health and wellness, stating that the company aims to provide a steady stream of resources to ensure employees always feel supported.

“We have a consistent cadence of events, webinars, and connection points, whether it's through our employee resource groups, or specifically through our wellness awareness month. There are constantly live ways to connect and resources that we distribute to help employees.”

Additionally, Cross stressed the importance of mental health days, which Newfront provides to employees every other month on a “no questions asked” basis, allowing employees to take time off to recharge and reset whenever they need it most.

A collaborative approach to wellness

Wellness and mental health initiatives are becoming particularly crucial, as Hotchkiss noted that current industry trends, such as an increased focus on margins, have left many insurance professionals feeling overworked.

"Everybody's looking to streamline expenses, as a result, there may not be as many employees doing the same work. And that's causing some stress as well."

Accordingly, Cross underscored the need for employers to design workplaces where attending mental health workshops is accessible.

"If you’re not blocking off people’s calendars or encouraging people to attend, you're just perpetuating the stress cycle. It’s one thing to promote it, but it's also important to create space for participation."

Cross emphasizes the importance of taking a collaborative approach to wellness and says insurance providers can also play a key role in prioritizing mental health.

“Insurers can collaborate with players in the market, such as mental health providers, to offer resources and products that make mental health more accessible.”

As the spotlight on mental health intensifies, Cross hopes the insurance industry's focus on mental health will continue to evolve from an individual-centric approach to a more collective one.

“We put so much onus on individual wellness, and what you as one person can do to change your life. And I would love to see more collaboration between different levels of intervention.”

“This means understanding how workplace environments influence individuals and recognizing the impact of corporate policies and insurance program designs, and how these can have a trickle-down effect on the individual and sometimes create barriers to individual wellness,” Cross said.

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