Remote work was a trend that companies were shifting toward even before the Coronavirus outbreak. However, we can be certain that this unprecedented situation has had the biggest role in pushing it forward. Many insurance agencies have been quickly thrown into a working from home model in the last month. But what if you don’t have experience working remotely? In this new environment, group insurance brokers will be tested in their ability to maintain the level of service they used to provide in person. In this week’s Broker Tool Belt, we share four tips for insurance agencies working remotely, helping them to keep operating business as usual, maintain productivity, and successfully create remote work guidelines to empower their team.
1. Establish a New Routine
You had a routine. Waking up, going to the office, and shutting down work around the same time every day. But working from home has changed what used to be normal. It’s harder to draw a distinction between personal time and work when you are at home 24 hours a day. But to the extent it’s possible, establish a new routine.
One of the first tips for insurance agencies working remotely is trying to find a dedicated and comfortable spot to work. Associate that space with your job and leave it when you are off the clock. It’s important to get off of the couch, and definitely out of bed. If it helps to put you in the right mindset, get ready for work every morning as if you were going to the office. Dress up, do your hair, or shave. Do whatever you normally did when you used to physically go into work.
If staying productive while working from home gets difficult, try to maintain normal work hours and set a timer to take breaks. For example, dedicate a time for lunch where you can disconnect, or make a point to go for daily walks. If you don’t change up your environment at some point during the day, you run the risk of quickly burning yourself out and worsening the situation. You can increase your productivity by creating a list at the end of the workday of what you plan to accomplish the next day. If you don’t want to use a notebook, Google Keep is great for taking notes, including text, lists, images, and audio.
2. Be Flexible, But Manage Expectations
We understand that working from home can be difficult for so many reasons. If you share your space with roommates, a partner, or kids, the situation can get even more complicated. For this reason, it’s important to manage expectations during this uncertain time. If you need to start work later, finish up earlier, or take more breaks during the day to be able to handle other duties, let your team know and manage your client’s expectations accordingly.
It’s important to have a discussion with all parties involved. Set expectations of everything that you can accomplish within the new environment and discuss how tasks will get done. This should be an ongoing conversation. Establish regular communication, be transparent, and honest. Going remote is a new experience for most, but planning clear deliverables, listing them, and setting realistic deadlines will ensure you, your team, and your clients are on the same page.
3. Implement Technology to Work Remotely
Considering we don’t know how long this will last, it’s important to equip yourself with the right tools to have as close to normal working conditions as possible. Since technology is what facilitates remote work in the first place, utilizing both hardware and software/online tools is crucial to keep business as usual. Implementing technology is one of the most important tips for insurance agencies working remotely.
If you use a laptop in the office, make sure to take both it and the charger home. Consider bringing your mouse and keyboard too to make working from home easier. If you use a desktop computer, you might want to take it home so you have access to everything you need while physical distancing. Another solution can be transferring everything you need to an external hard drive and work from your home computer.
In relation to the software portion, make sure you have the right applications to communicate with your employees and your clients. The working-from-home model is leaning heavily on tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Determine what the best solutions are for you and install them as soon as possible.
In the case of insurance agencies, how are you going to access your book of business? Since you are not able to deliver paper forms or meet your clients in person, it’s important to put in place a technology solution that allows you to keep offering the same service to your clients. By implementing a cloud-based system like Ease, you and your team will be able to access all the data from any location and any device.
4. Manage Your Bandwidth
Nowadays, internet access is often taken for granted. But when you are working from home, putting your bandwidth to work like never before, it can start failing and problems can begin to appear. If you are trying to keep business as usual, you have probably implemented new tools in your workflow that allow you to stay connected with your clients and continue to offer your services without disruption. But you have to ask yourself, is your current connection enough to allow you to do so?
One of the biggest changes your bandwidth will need to allow is video conferencing. While you can’t meet your clients in person, online video conferences are the next best thing. If your internet starts failing and you are on a video call, shut down other programs you have open on your computer to lighten the load. Even though this will defeat the purpose of video conferencing, if your connection is still choppy, shut off the video and stay in the meeting with audio only to at least participate in the conversation.
Another potential problem related to your internet access is sharing it with your household members. If your connection is not robust enough, consider coordinating with your partner or other family members when video conferencing and set up rules about going online when you are on calls.
These are just four tips for insurance agencies working remotely. You can continue to reevaluate your new routine until you find the one that works best for you and your new situation. But keep in mind to over-communicate with your team and your clients so they know what to expect. In the meantime, try to appreciate the benefits that come with remote work. A major perk of working from home is ditching the commute. Use this time in the morning for a workout, self-improvement, or family time. There are many more tips we could share with you, but the most important one right now is to stay safe.