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Next Wave
One Year Later: COVID-19 Is Still Teaching Us Lessons

The pandemic has enlightened us over the course of the past 12 months. We should take care not to lose the wisdom imparted by these trying times.
  • Carly Burnham
  • March 2021
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The milestone of living with COVID-19 for a year is something to reflect on.

Last March, we saw many events being canceled or rescheduled such as the NBA suspending its season and we knew right away that our lives had changed. At the time, many of us thought this would be a short-lived change. We'd be in lockdown for a few weeks and get back to living our lives. A year later, and we're certainly not back to normal.

For many of us, this fact is wearing. We have grown tired of thinking about the pandemic daily. And yet, we also realize that though our lives have changed, many of us in the insurance industry are very fortunate. For example, our industry adapted quickly to the requirements of social distancing.

As I reflect on a year of working remotely, I think about how my life in insurance has changed, and how I can improve my ability to be of service over the next 12 months so that as we improve our ability to handle the pandemic, insurance can move forward with some of the lessons learned during our time of remote work.

Here are three things I think we can keep from this time of COVID-19 as we try to return to normal:

• The ability to work remotely.

The insurance industry has always had some roles that were almost fully remote by the nature of the work: risk control consultants, claims adjusters and field underwriters. March 2020 saw most of our employees begin to work from home. Over the past year, we have all adjusted to this new reality and found spaces at home to use as our offices.

Initially, all those video calls were draining. And we missed the opportunity to stop by each other's cubicles for a quick chat. But, we have learned that insurance work can be done from anywhere. In the future, we can balance our need to be remote with the need to go into the office. Moreover, we should expand our ability to hire talent from diverse geographies, and allow employees to gain back the time they've spent commuting.

• The understanding that employees are human.

In the first few months of the pandemic, many employers recognized that their underwriters, claims professionals and agents were more than just the functions of their jobs. As we all got to see each other working remotely, we learned about our co-workers' home lives. And many of our co-workers were pulling double duty right in front of us—trying to find ways to care for their children who were no longer able to go to class, or cope with a dog. We became more understanding of each other and showed up with a sense of humor when family interruptions occurred. We are all trying to continue to manage this gracefully.

If we return to the office in the future, I hope we can continue to see each other as complete individuals who have lives outside of work.

• The intentional creation of workplace connections.

For those of us who started new roles in the midst of the pandemic, this point is of utmost importance. Before COVID-19 struck, we could stop by each other's desks or meet each other in the elevator—all instances that built connections between employees. The past year has taught us to forge those connections through video calls and chats instead. Developing these interpersonal skills will help insurance professionals work with teams. This leads to better collaboration for the entire company.

We should strive to keep these benefits in mind, even if we return to normal. There are likely other lessons we have learned that can benefit the insurance ecosystem as a whole. I'd love to hear what you have found that has worked well this year.

Best’s Review contributor Carly Burnham, CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at and can be reached at

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