Working from Home – Suddenly the New Normal?

Matthew Bestwick, MGAA Next Gen Group member shares his thoughts on the new reality for workers across the Insurance profession.

Is anybody else missing the commute? Just think of how much more you could get done if you saved two hours a day on commuting? Although many have dreams of learning an instrument, a foreign language or even spending more time with the kids, the reality is, that’s two more hours of eligible time to chain yourself to your desk.

That’s the scenario many are finding themselves in during the current COVID-19 “lockdown”. I write this at the end of the first week of “lockdown” and have just completed a 60-hour working week. There are underlying circumstances which has led to this elongated working week but it’s so easy to slip into and I will be working hard to have more time for myself and family next week.

There is so much advice out there to assist with the challenges of working from home which can be overwhelming in its own right. A few key ones for me: dress for work, work in a different area to your relaxation space if possible (if not possible hide your laptop after you log-off) and take the breaks you ordinarily would.

One challenge I’ve found this week can be summed up by an exasperated sentence I uttered at some point, “it feels like I’ve got the entirety of the business in the front room”. I had emails coming in, phone calls on mobile and laptop, live chat and multiple work streams.

If you feel work is getting to you, in my opinion, there is no better way to de-stress and remove any anxieties than talking it through. This can be with a colleague or a friend. Modern technology comes into its own here - not only can you pick up the phone but you can easily see one another and interact remotely. I’ve been using Microsoft Teams but other apps such as Google Meet Me, Skype etc are available. How many people have been on a webcam with work colleagues recently and have seen colleague’s best halves walk in the background with the washing up or a child’s head pop into the corner of the screen? My personal favourite this week, “I’ve come inside and left my child to chop wood in the garden….*collective gasp*, Noooo, with his Dad.”

It’s very important that workers do not feel isolated and a daily call with the team goes some way to making up for the lost office banter and weather chat over the morning brew. At the end of every day the senior management team have a mass video conference (with a defined chair of the meeting to stop anarchy) and we each run through the health of the team, any issues and key priorities to ensure the business operations continue unaffected.

In the “new world” bubble, physical social gatherings are limited to two and/or those in your immediate household. I’m not sure any of us will have spent so much time with the ones we love; it can be just as important to make time for yourself away from your family as well as it is to spend time away from your work. You may wish to designate a certain time each day or create an area where you can go and get some downtime. Set boundaries, communicate your needs and be mindful of how those around you are feeling. I can usually find space if I start playing my synthesiser and make “random bleeping noises”.

On the whole financial services seems to have transitioned to the work from home culture very well and let me take the opportunity to thank all those IT guru’s out there for making this happen. It isn’t  often they get a shout out – the only shout they normal get is, “WHY isn’t it working”!?”.

However, it is all very novel in the early stages and more social isolation is expected so remember to stay in contact with your colleagues, keep talking and look out for those who have dropped off the radar. We’re all in this together and we’ll get through this together and I look forward to seeing you all on the other side for an MGAA Next Gen quiz alongside a tipple of your choice.