Hybrid Working - Sam Ellerton, Lockton

Hybrid working – protecting your business from claims risk

Sam Ellerton is Regional Claims Leader and Senior Vice President at Lockton Companies LLP, the world’s largest privately owned independent insurance brokerage firm. Sam was a panelist in our homeworking webinar series and he is the ideal person to speak to about some of the risks facing customer service and contact businesses in a post-Covid working environment.

Regional Claims Leader & Senior Vice President (Lockton Companies LLP)

What will be the main changes for businesses in 2021 and beyond?

Sam states: “Businesses need to think of every work environment as an extension of the workplace. This means that for employees who will continue to work from home, either permanently or part-time, the employer needs to be fully engaged to ensure mitigation of the major areas of risk, particularly employee health, wellbeing, ensuring fair employment practices, cyber and information security.”

Sam continues: “Ideally, individual home-based risk assessment documents should be issued to home workers to complete for their working space at home. Employees should be supported in completing these documents, so businesses might need to be adaptable in how this support is provided. Cost-effectively, video overviews could be used to assist individuals or remote meetings along with home visits reserved for the most complex cases. Every employee must be treated individually with consideration of their specific needs.”

Sam concludes: “Following individual risk assessments, action must be taken to mitigate the risks identified. This might mean supplying equipment to provide a safe and comfortable working space for your team members. Failure to address known risks will not be viewed positively should a claim arise.”

How can employers manage disruption and costs from the necessary changes?

Sam answers: “Make sure that your business has a Homeworking Policy and adheres to it. Consult with your employees on the policy and review it regularly. Following a structured approach will maximise consistency and highlight opportunities to foresee repeatable tactics to address your employees’ issues in the home workplace.”

Sam points out: “Your policies will help your business to adopt managed procurement strategies. This means that you can purchase equipment in an effective way, helping your colleagues whilst enjoying the economies of scale and consistency that good purchasing behaviours deliver. It also means that everyone is treated fairly, with equal treatment of similar situations for your workers. Being able to evidence a reasonable and consistent approach will be key to the defence of any claim that may arise as a result of increasing volumes of home working. ”

What about looking after staff wellbeing and development?

Sam voiced: “Increase the amount of communication you have with your staff. By ramping up the interaction, people can feel more connected to the workplace and enhance your corporate culture. At Lockton, we have teams who work with video calls switched on even when they’re not in meetings: that ability to interact whilst working mimics the social aspects of working together.”

Sam goes onto illustrate: “Regular virtual training sessions using the wealth of online material is easy to set up and offers great opportunities to learn in a relaxed environment. Why not watch webinars together as a team from home then follow with a Q&A to share what you’ve all learned? Simple techniques like these can encourage a culture of shared learning and recognise your team members for their engagement.”

Sam adds: “Mentoring is another winning strategy for remote teams. Putting structures in place where more experienced colleagues are tasked with helping others and being available to answer questions not only gives the more senior team members a position of responsibility and recognition, it gives your less experienced staff permission to ask for the help they need.”

Sam was keen to point out that working from home is not for everyone, though. As we move through 2021 and offices can reopen, there is pressure on businesses to find the right mix of working styles for their people.

Sam explains: “Before planning your office layouts for the return back to work, check that your people are happy with the new arrangements. If you can be flexible, then adapting to the ways your teams prefer to work might deliver great productivity results. Put simply, some people work better from home, others are at their optimum in the office, and still, others may love a mixture of the two. The key is to offer flexibility and engage to the greatest extent possible, ensuring that all staff members are given the same opportunities wherever they choose to work.”

Sam concludes: “The businesses that share in the benefits of hybrid working will perform better and reduce their exposure to claims from employees.”

What are the other business benefits of getting hybrid working right?

Sam explains: “Employers who move now to identify how much office space they need can take the opportunity to reduce office costs. By reducing space, they can seek reduced rents. Use some of those savings to make working from home better for your employees and protect your business from future claims risks.”

Sam continues: “By building a supportive and flexible hybrid working model backed by mentoring and team building your business can feed a positive culture and your employees will feel supported. This will be reflected in low dissatisfaction, increased productivity and a comparatively lower risk of claims from your staff. Research of course also confirms that where employees are happy then this benefit is passed on to the client by way of enhanced customer service.”  

 Sam adds “An extra benefit for the medium to long term is that a good, flexible hybrid working structure makes it easier to recruit. Your team will no longer have to be based exclusively in the towns where you have offices nor will they need to stay nearby – people who leave the area can stay with you where before 2020 they might have had to find a job in a new location. This simply makes it easier to retain and recruit the best talent as your business grows.”

So finally, what are the main takeaway messages for businesses adapting to hybrid working?

Sam summarised his thoughts very succinctly: “The businesses that put employees at the centre of their hybrid working plans will do well, making the most of opportunities to decrease overhead, widen recruitment, lower staff turnover and absence, enhance productivity and reduce claims exposures. The key will be to ensuring that engagement and investment in culture is at the centre of the strategy; all employees must be brought on the corporate journey to ensure fairness and success. Those who cling on to a jackets-on-chairs mentality may face the negative side effects as staff demand flexibility and look to competitors who can offer it to them. They could also fail to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to improve their competitiveness.”

“‘By building a business which rewards people for results and supports staff development in a responsible way, companies now have a chance to deliver excellent service, attract and keep the best people, and reduce cost. For most this will be an opportunity that is too good to refuse.”

If you’re unsure how to assess your claims risk exposure and how to equip your business to handle new working conditions, the expert team at Contact Centre Panel can help. We can also help you to learn how to work with your employees to maximise their health, happiness and productivity.

Contact us today and one of our skilled staff will assess your requirements and provide recommendations on future steps.