The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to close their doors or operate at extremely reduced capacities. Those that have stayed open have done so by moving their workforce to a remote setting.
That’s what happened to us at Brokers International.
How We Got Here
We are in the wholesale distribution business. When an independent financial planner or insurance agent sells someone life insurance or an annuity, they run their request through Brokers International. We work with numerous carriers to shop the best policy for the person’s need and situation. If the person ends up purchasing one of those policies, we earn a small commission for our time in procuring them.
The challenge facing the 5,000 agents we help nationwide is that the coronavirus crisis has made it impossible to conduct face-to-face meetings. While policy renewals and meetings with existing customers can continue, prospecting for new customers has become more difficult.
With our agents’ business down, ours is too. And while we’re still operating at full capacity, we’ve suddenly had to do so from an entirely new environment – our homes.
How We Made the Transition to Working Remotely in Two and a Half Weeks
Before the crisis hit, only 20% of our company could work remotely. Most employees didn’t have laptops. About 85% had computers they could use at home, though, which made the transition easier. We had VPN access and virtual desktop, so our CIO, Ross Kalber, put together a plan that had our entire workforce up and running at home before shelter at home policies were mandated in Iowa, where we are headquartered.
My first and foremost concern is and always has been the well-being of my employees and their families. I know that when we are preoccupied with issues outside of work, we don’t do as well at our work. I want to make it as easy as possible for our employees to be healthy, happy and productive at home.
As we consider internally what a return to work will look like as we emerge from the crisis, I keep the steps we took to move to a remote setting, and the values that guided those steps, in mind.
How We Plan To Come Back From Coronavirus
As I think about coming back to work in a normal setting, five phases guide my attention.
- The first thing that needs to happen is that the government needs to give the green light to go back to work.
- Once that has happened, the state of our employees’ lives becomes the pressing concern. When they can return to work with their family life and childcare needs met, we can consider bringing them back to the office.
- The first wave of employees returning to the office will be those who are healthy and willing. Those who want to be back in the office will come back first. I’m not naïve enough to think that after the government clears people to return to work, everyone will immediately feel comfortable doing so.
- After the first wave is successfully back in the office, employees who are healthy and whose children are back to their normal routines can return.
- Finally, all employees will come back.
Ours is a travel-heavy industry. I travel every week for business. Or at least I used to. I will approach traveling for meetings the same way I eased out of it. I asked people if they wanted me to come before shelter at home orders were issued. Once they’re lifted, I’ll follow the same practice.
I will make sure clients and business associates are comfortable meeting in person when it means I’ve traveled commercially to make that experience possible. While I may be comfortable traveling, I must consider their feelings and well-being as well.
It’s the same reason we’re all wearing masks when we’re in public, whether or not we feel sick. It’s a simple consideration we make for others, to protect them and demonstrate we value their well-being.
This crisis has proven we can work remotely, and while that may not be the optimal choice for every employee it will dramatically change how we work going forward. By thinking now about the best plan for returning, we can set ourselves and our businesses up to hit the ground running and ensure we return firing on all cylinders.
Want to make the most of your downtime? One of the best things we can do right now as business owners is to plan for the future. If you want help mapping out a return to work strategy or a selling strategy in the months ahead, contact me today.