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Viewpoint: Work environments evolve

remote work

Work life and what shape it takes as we move beyond the pandemic continues to evolve. To get a sense of where it’s at, we asked Business Insurance’s 2022 Break Out Award winners: What’s a lasting effect of the pandemic on the way you work? While some of the answers were what you’d expect, others were quite surprising.

Technology has been a critical tool in the pandemic and will continue to be so, as many award winners reported. It facilitated the immediate shift to remote work and forced many to embrace the benefits of video technologies such as Zoom and Teams. While email and phone communications had been prevalent before the pandemic, many winners reported that video calls have become essential, enabling them to stay in contact, not just with colleagues, but with business partners and customers on a regular basis face-to-face.

In a relationship business, the ability to connect much more easily and efficiently with so many more people around the world is a lasting effect for many. Others noted how much more productive they can be when not hopping on an airplane every few days. Some business travel will come back, but some won’t several winners suggested. Most every winner said they had become a better communicator because of digital reliance. Virtual meetings, then, are likely to continue.

But Zoom and Teams fatigue is also real. Technology that can help build relationships can also drive people further apart, and while back-to-back video calls enhance productivity, they can be time-consuming and may not be the solution to everything. As one award winner said: “I’ve seen people respond very positively to clearly written and concise emails versus taking up their time.”

Some award winners reported that the digital shift and remote work environment have given them a newfound appreciation for in-person interactions and for being in the office. Whether collaborating with colleagues, building a team culture, or training new employees, some work may be best done in person. Onboarding new employees remotely, for example, can be challenging when they are adjusting to a new role and industry. Just because some work and training can be done remotely doesn’t mean that it necessarily should. Activities like brainstorming sessions and negotiations with clients may lose some of their effectiveness when done remotely. And whatever happened to the impromptu conversation over coffee?

A key takeaway from this year’s winners may be that building sustainable personal connections, whether in-person or remotely, will continue to be an important part of the industry.

Having a nimble and flexible approach is another important hallmark. Many honorees said they appreciated the fluidity that remote and hybrid work models have introduced. As one honoree said: “Previously, you would want to wait until everyone was together to knock something out. Now, the world is your oyster, no matter where anyone is geographically.”

That adaptability and flexibility, not to mention resilience, have carried this year’s cohort of winners along their already impressive career paths through one of the most unpredictable events in the industry’s history. Perhaps a lasting effect of the pandemic on the way they work is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.