The coronavirus is top-of-mind across the globe and the insurance community is starting to feel the effects, from heightened health awareness to travel restrictions and self-imposed quarantines. When we at The Jacobson Group were preparing for the potential impact of this strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our employees, company and clients, we realized our perspective as a talent-focused organization might prove beneficial for others as they establish their own plans. While we’re fervently hoping the coronavirus weakens, we have highlighted four essential considerations to support ongoing employee wellness and business continuity.
Determine Business Impact and Preparedness
First, insurers should review possible ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak: Will your business be impacted? If so, how? What are the major risks, and how could they be best mitigated? For example, you likely want to consider how service levels will be affected in case of employees’ isolation or quarantine, as well as how to manage the influx of health or stop-loss claims if the virus continues to spread. In addition, off-site business meetings could be cancelled and need to be replaced by virtual alternatives.
Likewise, employees may no longer be able to attend planned conferences because many organizers are postponing or cancelling events as a precautionary measure; you may want to determine alternative options for continuing education opportunities, especially if that contributes to employees’ annual performance and development goals. Travel restrictions or office closures could also impact job interviews for open positions. Consider how you can leverage phone or video interviews to keep the recruitment process moving. Determining likely areas of impact on your operations and employees, like these, and drafting a plan of response will ensure your organization is well-prepared for all possible scenarios.
Communicate Clearly and Often
Make sure to inform employees of changes and expectations in detailed, precise language and keep lines of communication open to avoid the spread of misconceptions and alleviate uncertainty. Align messaging with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local health authorities wherever your employees are located. Messaging should also be consistent internally so leaders – from executive team members down to individual managers – are passing along the same information and creating a united front. Sharing these best practices will show your staff you’re reliable and proactive, and you will know everyone is on the same page in case of escalation.
In your notifications to employees, consider including details such as how you are currently addressing the coronavirus outbreak, what you plan to do if the situation intensifies, when and how they should expect to receive further information, and whom they should contact with questions or concerns in the meantime (e.g., their manager or an HR representative). Above all, strive to make this communication transparent and empathetic. Your employees are likely worried due to all of the unknowns surrounding the circumstances, and they will be looking to you as a source of stability and comfort in the workplace.
Prepare for Remote Work Arrangements
Health authorities have cautioned against sick employees coming into the office, and you likely are already encouraging employees to stay home if they feel unwell. Telecommuting can further reduce the spread of germs within your office. You may choose to implement remote work arrangements for employees who display potential symptoms but otherwise feel well enough to work or as a precautionary measure for those who have come into contact with someone who has potentially been exposed. Preparing for telecommuting now will enable more of your staff to continue working in such circumstances, rather than requiring them to take time off and, thus, disrupting business as usual.
If you don’t already have work-from-home protocols in place, a dry run will ensure employees are well-equipped if centralized operations are suspended. Staff members should take any essential technology home to test connectivity, determine optimal communication methods and set up dedicated work spaces. Help employees stay on task while working remotely by establishing clear deliverables and boost morale by maintaining regular face-to-face contact via videoconferencing programs like Skype, WebEx or BlueJeans.
Have a Back-up Plan
If your company closes offices, some employees may not be able to work at their typical capacity. In particular, parents of young children could encounter difficulty if schools close and their focus shifts to caring for their families, regardless of your organization’s ability to support remote work. Additionally, it’s possible that claims volumes and customer service needs could spike in coming weeks. Coupled with the potential for being short-staffed, some organizations may require extra help.
To ease the stress of filling gaps with qualified professionals, consider engaging with a firm experienced in providing the remote insurance talent you may need. Remote claims professionals can handle an increase in stop-loss or health insurance claims, or interim customer service specialists can assist with an influx of coverage inquiries. Regardless of the ultimate impact of COVID-19, knowing contract employees are able to quickly step in can give you the peace of mind necessary to concentrate on employee health and business-critical operations.
Being prepared for the unexpected is important at any time, and we hope these considerations are helpful in ensuring your business continuity now and in the future. Please know we are here to help if the United States becomes further impacted or if your company takes precautionary measures.