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VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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INDUSTRY & MARKETS
Keeping the Conversation Going
Featuring
CINDY MARCHAND
Owner
DPM Insurance
JAMIE MINGAY
Managing Director
Insurance Store
Workplaces play an essential role in maintaining positive mental health, increased productivity and happier, healthier employees. More and more, companies are recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace—and it’s important to keep these conversations going. We spoke with two brokers about employee support and keeping a healthy work-life balance in their brokerage.
HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC AFFECTED ATTITUDES, POLICIES AND PROCEDURES SURROUNDING MENTAL HEALTH AT YOUR BROKERAGE?
CM: It’s brought more awareness to the importance of mental health in the workplace. When the pandemic first began, we had a meeting every morning. 90% was discussing feelings and ways to deal with all the changes and challenges the pandemic presented. No topic was off limits. Everyone is more aware of their fellow team members and mental status and are more willing to reach out and check in if they notice something is off.
JM: At the beginning of the pandemic, we very quickly adopted a work-from-home position and transitioned about 90% of our employees who worked from our offices to a home environment. In the last 17 months, we’ve built and launched several new employee focused programs. We’ve received positive feedback from team members who have participated in new programs so far.
MP: I’ve transitioned back to the office full-time which has been very positive for me. We moved to a beautiful new space in February which was designed with social distancing in mind, so 90% of our team has been safely working back under one roof for several months. We intend on fully transitioning back to the office, other than as needed to support parents and guardians with children learning virtually.
The pandemic’s really pulled us together as a team, we have each other’s backs more than ever.
WHAT RESOURCES OR INCENTIVES ARE AVAILABLE FOR EMPLOYEES TO IMPROVE THEIR MENTAL HEALTH?
CM: We have helpline numbers that are free for anyone in the brokerage to use for counselling or just speaking to someone on a one-off basis to get something off their chest. I have an open-door policy—all staff know they can approach me with any difficulty they may be having, no matter what it is. You’d be surprised how many reach out on weekends and after hours if they’re in need. If I’m unable to help, I direct them to a professional who can. The pandemic’s really pulled us together as a team, we have each other’s backs more than ever.
JM: With the amalgamation of all offices and a name change in January, we launched our new Employee & Family Assistance Program as part of our employee benefits. We also offer virtual medical, stress management and wellness programs, all of which are available to our employees and their families at no cost.
MP: We measure success by traditional results like growth and retention, but also by the level of collaboration and engagement of our team members. The latter suffered when most of the team was working remotely last year. There was less day-to-day interaction among the team, which meant generally less engagement, fewer opportunities to work together to problem solve and less awareness when someone needed help. It takes a considerable amount of energy to be intentional about engaging with others when working from afar—this tends to be the first thing pushed aside when there’s little energy to spare. 2020 was successful given the environment we had to work with, but it wasn’t conducive to fostering collaboration, growth or team engagement on any significant level.
How do you promote employee wellbeing and encourage a healthy work-life balance?
CM: We were fortunate to be able to come into work every day and not work from home. I realized quickly that I had to shorten the workday as nobody was leaving the office or taking breaks and it became too overwhelming and stressful. I still paid everyone for their full 40-hour work week (we were working 30 hours). We also had several fun events like Souper Bowl—a homemade soup competition and several lunches ordered in to support local restaurants.
JM: With the launch of our new employee-focused programs at the beginning of the year, we’ve done several email campaigns, hosted education sessions and built staff programs into our new hire orientation process. We continue to develop our employee wellbeing and work-life balance programs with our return-to-office plans, currently underway.
MP: Engaging and building trust with your team is difficult for remote workers. This is especially true for new employees who are working remotely. Ad hoc learning is invaluable and can’t be replaced by virtual interactions to the same effect. We often underestimate the benefit of overhearing difficult situations your colleagues are dealing with and the bond that’s built by offering help or working together to find solutions. Face-to-face interactions, giving or receiving in-person shoutouts for a job well done and stopping by someone’s office to have a laugh or talk about a tough day are all part of what makes us human and connects us to who we are and what we do. Without these interactions, it really starts to feel like a grind.
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE AT YOUR BROKERAGE IN THE PAST YEAR AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?
CM: Changing the approach at work where customers have always been number one to realizing staff had to be number one to give optimal service to every client was our biggest challenge. Happy staff that feel secure and appreciated will always go that extra mile—they could all run a marathon now!
JM: The biggest challenge was transitioning staff to a work-from-home environment, and now starting the process of changing people’s mindsets to return to an in-person work environment. Meeting our business needs while also balancing the needs and safety of our employees has taken up a lot of time and energy. Despite the pandemic, we’ve hired new departmental managers, experienced excellent growth and increased the number of employees in all locations—all while dealing with a difficult marketplace, particularly in commercial lines.
VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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