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Remote working with the ABI: Susan’s Story

Category: testimonial, Flexible Working, ABI, Association of British Insurers, Regulation, Flexible, Insurance, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, flexiblity, home working, COVID-19, flexibility

Flexible Working

Susan Abbott is the Senior HR Advisor at the Association of British Insurers (ABI). We spoke to Susan about the impact COVID-19 is having on the organisation and how employees at ABI are coping with remote working during this challenging time.

“The initial teething tech issues were ironed out really quickly things are working well. We can all access what we need on our own laptops, or have been provided with devices. The ABI were good at checking who needs what in advance of us working from home and got everyone the equipment they needed quickly,” said Susan.

A major impact on the insurance industry in general is the sheer volume of work as a result of COVID-19 and the ABI has been no different.

“It’s not an easy time for the insurance industry and lots of work is being done to ensure customers get the help they need from their insurers. That means as the trade body for the industry, we have a lot of work to do supporting our members. The ABI are almost operating as normal – no-one has been furloughed and we’re still recruiting new colleagues,” said Susan.

The ABI have always offered remote and home working to employees but now that everyone has to work remotely the company is working hard to ensure everyone is communicating effectively, both in regard to work, and keeping up with social connections.

“We swiftly put together an internal comms team to make sure everyone feels connected and to engage people working from home. We have a  regular newsletter with content around fitness, mental health and working from home tips. We arranged a webinar with a nutritionist to talk about how to eat well when working from home and recently celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week digitally. We also have a weekly quiz every Thursday afternoon and regular Friday art classes – all done voluntarily by colleagues. We also have regular all-colleague meetings where we get updates from our Executive team, talk about wellbeing generally and share personal updates from each Directorate to keep us connected,” said Susan.

In this difficult time, keeping well physically and mentally is of vital importance and the ABI recognise this and are working hard to help employees. But what particular challenges is Susan experiencing?

“I think personally it’s missing things like my commute because that gets in exercise. I walk about an hour a day so I miss that. I also miss my desk set up. Working on my little laptop isn’t the same as having two screens but our Business Services team are working hard on solutions to help people work from home comfortably. Working in HR, a lot of our relationships with colleagues are built and maintained by people dropping by for a catch up so there’s been a change there. However, now we’re settled into the routine of working at home, we’re finding lots of ways to keep in regular contact using phone and video calls.”

There are also positives to working home culture that ABI are embracing.

“The ABI have a really strong working culture and that’s not been lost by working remotely. The teams are really engaged and supporting each other. It’s a challenge everyone is sharing which brings people together and shows that we’re able to work from home and maintain positive working culture. It makes you appreciate the culture we have the colleagues we get to work with,” said Susan.

Consistently communicating with your co-workers is important right now to maintain solid working and social relationships, but how else can workers ensure they maintain a happy working environment from home?

“We encourage people to maintain routine, get up at a similar time and have preparation time before work. We suggest virtual lunches and have talked about informally agreeing a buddy so if someone is feeling low they have someone to reach out to. You find you spend more time in front of a screen when you work from home so we encourage regular breaks to get up and away,” said Susan.  

In times of crisis, maintaining good mental health can be a challenge. At the ABI they have mental health first aiders, a 24/7 online GP service and an employer assistance programme, a service that gives people access to specialist consultants and counsellors. It offers both one off sessions and longer programmes, is confidential and offered for any difficulties employees may be having, not just work concerns.

During the lockdown companies like the ABI are finding successful ways to cope with the lack of face-to-face interaction and we thank Susan for sharing what her company is doing to support workers during this time. For tips on how to successfully work from home see our article here.

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