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Sep 2021

Back to work

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | Jul 2021

As the number of people covered by the vaccine increases, more and more countries are focusing on what the future of work might look like. Most people have learned to adopt work practices overnight that might otherwise have taken years to take root – many of them, but perhaps not all, for the better.
The time is fast approaching when the insurance sector in the MENA region will have to face up to the reality of what the future of work looks like.
It is not likely to be the same as it was pre-pandemic – but it is not likely to be permanent work-from-home or permanent work-from-office - and the consensus seems to be that a hybrid of the two may become the accepted norm.
As with many other areas of business, the groups likely to be affected most profoundly by these changes will be the young and those starting out on their careers. It is relatively easy for workers with decades of experience to simply ‘get on with it’, but young people run the risk of missing out on learning from their more senior colleagues who have much more experience.
There is no easy way of judging how much wisdom is picked up in the coffee room or by the water cooler – simply through listening to others and watching how the office manager deals with everyday situations. And this is especially true for the insurance sector where industry experience is increasingly the most valuable asset a company has.
Indeed, this is precisely the point that was made recently by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon when he said that he wanted people back at work because exclusively working from home “doesn’t work for young people”. Mr Dimon has been widely quoted as saying that, “It doesn’t work for those who want to hustle. It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture.”
Of course, there is more to it than this. It appears that four out of five businesses still remain concerned about the security risks of employees working remotely according to the 2021 Thales Global Data Threat Report - despite organisations being over a year into remote working and looking ahead to shifts to ‘hybrid remote’.
The new report found that managing security risks is becoming more challenging with 47% of businesses seeing an increase in the volume, severity and scope of cyber attacks in the past 12 months.
For the insurance sector, it becomes clear that these concerns go far beyond the remit of the head of HR – and bring in the IT team, the marketing and promotions team and the entire C-suite.
It’s about productivity and it’s about customer retention. It’s also about staff wellbeing – physical as well as mental. Indeed, it’s about the future of the individual businesses – and therefore the future of the industry.
Culturally the Middle East has always been a melting pot of cultures and for this reason ‘return to work’ in the region cannot simply be based on what works in the US or Europe – it will have to involve a new way of doing things that suits the diverse human resources teams in most significant players in the insurance sector.
Players that get it right will end up at the head of the queue of places where bright young graduates want to work. Players who get it wrong may find it hard to attract any staff at all.
Paul McNamara
Editorial director
Middle East Insurance Review
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