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Best Places to Work in Insurance 2014: Silberstein Insurance Group

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Silberstein Insurance Group President Richard Silberstein once spotted a flustered employee in the parking lot of the brokerage's suburban Lutherville, Maryland, headquarters.

It was obvious she had just braved the Baltimore-area traffic and was making her way to work just in time.

Mr. Silberstein's reaction was to later approach that particular employee's super-visor to say, “Remind her that she doesn't have to put herself through that.”

Traffic, he says, is an “energy vampire,” which is why Mr. Silberstein prefers his employees avoid it all costs. Telecommute, he tells them often. Make calls from home. Take a walk first; spend time with your kids.

Silberstein Insurance Group is a firm that specializes in employee benefits, advising clients on how to create and administer benefit plans that maximize their investment while controlling costs in a manner that is consistent with their core values.

One talent is building strategic plans that target improving the health of their employees and dependents. Toward that end, workplace culture can make the biggest difference, Mr. Silberstein said.

Silberstein Insurance offers perks that Mr. Silberstein has found make working there enjoyable for his 39 employees, with everything from employee potlucks to fitness challenges and social events such as bowling outings. This helped the company to earn its place as one of Business Insurance's 2014 Best Places to Work in Insurance, its fifth consecutive year on the list.

But it's his adherence to the concept of a “results-only work environment,” or what experts refer to as ROWE, that seems to be most popular.

“For us, it's a results-oriented work environment that says you don't need to drive someplace to get it all done,” he said. “You don't have to sit in traffic. You can get it done at home. Nobody's baby-sitting the clock.”

Essentially, if workers complete their tasks on time, Mr. Silberstein doesn't care how or when work is accomplished. Call it mega-flexibility.

“Richard is always so open to doing things differently,” said Rachel Druckenmiller, wellness director and an 11-year employee whose job requires her to conduct culture audits, interest surveys and focus groups to see what works and what doesn't. The employees, she said, always have input.

“People stick around here because they feel taken care of; they feel like both their job matters and their families matter,” Ms. Druckenmiller said.

Ms. Druckenmiller's own work week consists of a combination of telecommuting and time in the office when she has meetings. At home, she has a stand-up desk that helps keep her moving and focused. “I don't feel guilty as long as I complete what I have to do,” she said. “There's no guilt in not coming into the office.”

Ms. Druckenmiller said the underlying principle of productivity has nothing to do with the where and when of work.

“Whenever you have more options, you feel empowered and you are happier,” she said. “That goes a long way. Empowered adults do their job, and if they don't do their job, it's a performance issue.”