Over the last few months, some new words have become an integral part of our daily vocabulary. Unprecedented, Zoom, furlough, Microsoft Teams, asymptomatic, R-factor, flatten the curve, PPE to the newfound habit of home working. But what does this mean to Accident, Sickness and Unemployment Insurance?
"As advisors who understand the protection range of products, we have a duty of care to our customers to offer products that offer a financial safety net for workers with responsibilities."
In 2017, according to Lancaster University's Work Foundation, over half the organisations in the UK said they are likely to have adopted flexible working practices and in three years i.e. by 2020, this figure was predicted to rise to 70%. Little did we realise that in 2020, working from home would become almost the standard working practise for most people and that it would be imposed upon us rather than making a choice.
In its 'Working anywhere – a winning formula for good work' report, the Foundation outlined how flexible working – defined as something that gave employees flexibility on how long, where and when they work – would benefit UK PLC with increased productivity, improved employee well-being, talent attraction/retention and lower office space costs. It is true, most people would wholeheartedly agree to this and tend to sing the virtues of home working. It is abundantly clear that given a choice, most people would prefer to work from home and believe that returning to a pre Covid-19 office environment is a remote possibility.
Feedback from the 500 managerial respondents who participated in a survey suggested that; 54% reported flexible working allows them to get more work done, 49% said it made them feel more trusted and 46% considered this way of working improves the work/life balance.
The negatives, such as working longer hours, feeling disconnected from your team and being unable to manage others' work, appear to be outweighed by demand for the positives associated with this way of working.
With facilitators such as high-speed internet, cloud computing, online meeting platforms, social networks for inter-office communications and instant messaging already in place, it is no surprise to find that people now, prefer home working.
But are we viewing these radical changes to our working environment through rose-tinted glasses?
As the common adage goes, be careful what you wish for. Many of these preferences do come with challenges and may impact several parts of the working population in unimaginable ways for a long period of time.
To accommodate this 'evolving workforce' and make it sustainable for the longer term, organisations face several challenges. In many instances, IT infrastructures will have to be overhauled to provide sufficient wireless speeds and cloud data storage capacity for employees who come into the office via 'hot desking' arrangements and changes need to be made to management performance processes and employment terms & conditions.
Employers keen to embrace flexible working as their normal working model are rapidly moving to internet-based service models (cloud technology and mobile internet) and breaking up tasks which leads to a fragmentation of jobs. This inevitably results in a change in the skill requirements of existing roles.
There was already a lot of prediction that the fourth industrial revolution which heralds an increasing use of robots, big data and artificial intelligence in the economy would lead to permanent redundancies of several job roles. This drastic shift in working practices is bound to create a significant churn and leave an irreparable scar on economic and mental well-being of several individuals and sectors.
As we get used to the new working practices, businesses will be busy evolving over the next few months, perhaps years. It is inevitable that every business will have to continuously adapt until everyone in their ecosystem settles into the new methods of working. Cost competitiveness will inevitably be a big competitive advantage, and this will force every business to find savings and people costs will be a constant focus.
When there are more people available than jobs, competitive advantage of every individual becomes the reason as to why some people have a job, and some do not. The physical, mental, and financial well-being and ability to continue to meet financial commitments when facing changes in employment starts becoming more important than ever.
Call me myopic or lacking creativity, but the hybrid income protection which covers loss of income due to accident, sickness and unemployment can be a financial lifeline and answers to many challenges that the current Covid-19 has exposed and to several unknown that may surface in the future.
Over the last decade, the hybrid accident, sickness and unemployment policies have been refined, terms more transparent, simple to transact, better IT platforms that makes sales processes efficient, reduced administration time and commission models that pay until the policies are in force.
In a survey conducted by Best Insurance in June 2020, it was clear that the recent pandemic has increased the need for the hybrid accident, sickness, and unemployment policies right across the working population. There is a remarkable shift in the lower age groups such as 25 to 35 years, who are now keener to get themselves protected. People in the 45 to 55 years age group and those on the first rung of the housing ladder – are hard-pressed more than ever. As advisors who understand the protection range of products, we have a duty of care to our customers to offer products that offer a financial safety net for workers with responsibilities.
We can achieve this with renewed confidence as soon as the insurers resume the sale of such hybrid policies. Best Insurance is at the forefront of identifying the changing habits of customers and developing products that will appeal to these evolving protection requirements and resonate with audiences who desperately need some form of financial protection now and in the future.