Insurance companies are experts in managing risk and finding success through uncertainty. Accordingly, they typically take pride in traditional approaches to risk management through conventional business models.
Facilities and operations teams are assessing their existing real estate strategies and workplace design options to explore how their businesses can accommodate seismic changes. The emergence of innovative technologies and global forces is predicted to continue to disrupt and accelerate the rate of change for businesses and their people.
As insurance companies stand at the forefront of these changes, they must adapt and evolve to remain competitive. So, how do you design offices for insurance companies to put their best foot forward? Here are the key requirements for designing an office for an insurance company.
Companies working within the professional services sector are currently confronting a talent crisis at a time when the role of technology is changing from a back-office role to the driving force behind engaging customers and delivering enhanced products and services.
A 2012 study by The Institutes found that 78% of Millennials felt they were not familiar with the insurance industry. Furthermore, despite offering a broad range of opportunities in careers – from marketing and sales to data analysis and product management – 44% suggested they were not looking for an insurance career (Valen Analytics, 2012). The question as to how insurance companies will attract employees not just from their competitors, but also other industries, such as tech, will play a defining role in their business strategies.
CDO Craig Smith believes that insurance companies can positively benefit from hybrid working.
EY recently published the findings of a global survey which showed that 54% of employees are likely to quit their jobs unless they are given the freedom to decide where and when they work. This shows there is a need for a purposeful office space that benefits staff, rather than the expectation of being deskbound for a standard 9-5. The office is still the physical manifestation of a company’s culture and the control room for productivity. The design of a workplace is still going to be a vital instrument for insurance companies and their progressive workforce.
Typical traditional layouts for insurance companies involved hierarchical structures and private cubicles – where seniority and time in service are rewarded with larger space allocations. However, these space models don’t reflect the advancements seen in the insurance industry when mobility is king. Complicated chains of command delay communication, reduce autonomy and create silos that can hamper product and project teams.
The challenge of balancing organisational agility with accountability and efficiency cannot be solved by office design alone. Leadership and employee buy-in, reviewing company culture and a company’s core processes are all critical considerations when embracing new ways of working. However, the workplace provides both the perfect place to analyse new potential avenues for organisational change and a testing ground to enact new ideas – Sanlam’s new 20,000 sq ft Bristol office is a demonstration of executing workplace strategy to create a new working environment.
Our work with Charles Taylor is a standout solution for these design elements. Consolidating three offices into a 60,000 sq ft workplace, the company wanted an office that flattened the hierarchy and created a level playing field for collaboration. As a result, the final space plan incorporated a range of high-tech AV suites, multifunctional and agile workspaces – each geared towards optimising workflows. Not only does the new workplace suit Charles Taylor’s company vision and culture of an “agile, growing business – where every employee can make a significant impact and outperform,” it also provides a powerful incentive to attract younger and veteran talent alike.
While many in the insurance sector have embraced open plan working, it’s not without its challenges. Well-designed offices provide different types of space for people to work. In addition, as video conferencing and telephone calls can distract employees, a variety of on-site activity-based areas need to be available to staff to retreat and concentrate and communicate and collaborate.
The new RGA office in 22 Bishopsgate implements a variety of spatial retreats to give their staff touchdown spaces with integrated power and data and bookable collaborative workrooms. These connective spaces enhanced decision-making and upgraded their speed of service. It also helped lower costs by reducing space densities and in turn, optimising customer and employee experiences.
People experience visual and acoustic privacy when working at home, and so the workplace interior must also reflect these new expectations. Furniture choices such as screens, booths and panels provide excellent means of managing acoustics for concentrative work. At the same time, specifically designed rooms for confidential team meetings enable better focus and enhanced staff performance.
We created open plan workstations for the Dale Underwriting Partners office to boost collaboration within their workplace. The blend of collaborative areas and private spaces offer balance to the workplace and enables staff to step away to deal with confidential information at a moment’s notice. One such area was the “broker booths” that used comfortable, high back furniture in secluded enclosures. These booths provide optimum privacy for telephony, laptop and face-to-face interactions without the need for additional meeting rooms.
While insurance companies have made considerable progress in adopting remote working and integrating technology, there is still a considerable proportion of desk-based, sedentary work.
As people come back to the office, there needs to be value to spending time in the workplace and not just having a desk-heavy environment. Office layouts help counter this by promoting physical movement and encouraging walking behaviours and stand-up breaks throughout the day.
Mobility has been shown to have positive effects on staff performance by increasing energy levels, improving mood, and reducing feelings of fatigue. Introducing design solutions that encourage movement such as standing meeting spaces and height-adjustable desking, throughout the workplace can affect productivity and performance.