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9 guidelines for working remotely as coronavirus disruptions continue

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While working remotely isn’t a new topic by any means, many insurance agencies are being thrown into it quickly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What we’re currently experiencing across industries is a forced work-from-home experiment. Businesses will be tested in their ability to maintain normal productivity levels; insurance agencies will be especially tested in their ability to maintain the current level of service they usually provide to prospects and clients.

But what if your agency doesn’t have a ton of experience with working remotely? While each agency’s policy will be unique, try your best to create guidelines that will empower your employees to maintain productivity and service to prospects and clients.

1. Communicate the goal of working from home. During today’s COVID-19 crisis, the goal is likely to keep your team as safe as possible and do your part in the social distancing guidelines set by the CDC. While it might seem obvious why your team is doing this, communicating this and making it relevant to your team specifically is your chance to reiterate your company’s values and expectations during this time.

2. Over-communicate as much as possible. Especially for agencies whose employees are typically in the office, the sudden change can feel jarring. Having your team communicate as much as possible during this time will help employees continue to feel connected. Outline or remind everyone of the tools (some examples are discussed in #3 of this list) your team should use to communicate with one another.

3. Identify any new technology you’ll need to accommodate remote work—both hardware and software/online tools. Enabling your team to have as close to normal working conditions as possible during this time is important considering we don’t know how long this will last. This includes hardware like monitors, headsets, webcams, and anything else your team is accustomed to having day-to-day. This also includes things like Instant Messaging services, video calling services like Google Hangouts Meet or Skype, and GoToMeeting or Zoom for client or team meetings on the web.

4. Consider a “trial” day for your team to work remotely and give continuous feedback as they identify blind spots. This is your opportunity to ensure the team moves forward from the trial feeling empowered to be as productive as they are in the office. Over-communication is especially important during the trial period in order to uncover gaps.

5. Set expectations for work hours. Even if your company is usually flexible with work hours, communicate what your expectations are during this time.

6. Share tips of how to best communicate with clients during this time. This could be guidelines of what you want to share or a canned response each person on your team has access to. This could also include tips of how your team can stay in contact with your clients and prospects so they don’t feel a shift in the level of service you’re providing.

7. Support individual needs as much as possible. Encourage team members to communicate any special situations they might be facing as they work from home, like school and daycare closings.

8. Consider weekly check-ins. Discuss amongst teams to talk through how remote work is going and what support the team can provide each other. Share tips about being successful as you work from home. I.e.: staying true to your routine, carving out a space at home that is solely for work, staying near windows for sunlight, etc.

9. Evaluate the program as you go. Encourage everyone on the team to continually provide feedback and be proactive in addressing needs or making adjustments as they arise.

Another thing to consider during this time specifically for insurance agencies is how everyone will access their books of business. Having a cloud-based agency management system (AMS) allows your agents and staff to access all of the data they need from anywhere on any device.

While the pressure is on to implement a work-from-home program quickly, remember that your policy and guidelines can and will adjust as you go.

The most important thing you can do for your team at this time is to over-communicate (internally and externally), revisit your company’s mission and values, and reiterate the importance of maintaining productivity and the level of service your prospects and clients have come to expect.

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