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Next Wave
What I, a True Introvert, Have Missed Most About Office Life

Working from home certainly has its advantages, but it can’t replace the benefits of in-person relationships or contemplative time spent while commuting.
  • Carly Burnham
  • May 2021
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One of the largest employers in my home state recently announced it is closing its large downtown offices for good. There have been no follow-up reports of real estate purchases or new construction. Could this be a sign of things to come? We haven't heard of any insurers closing their home offices, but many of us are still working remotely and anticipate doing so for some time. So while traditional in-office work might have a short shelf life, I do look forward to returning to shared work space sooner than later. Here are three things I—a true introvert!—miss most about office life, and how I think things will look when we are able to return.

The Commute!

Remember sitting in rush-hour traffic? None of us ever thought we would miss that. For those drivers who were routinely stuck on highways that were more like parking lots, working remotely has given us a good amount of time back. But that time in the car helped me get into the right mindset, either mentally preparing for my day ahead or leaving work behind as I made my way back home. It was also my opportunity to listen to the news and catch up on current events. For some, it was a time to listen to a book, podcast or music. Now that our commute is from our bedroom to our home office—or let's be honest, our kitchen table or living room sofa—we've had to establish new ways to start up or shut down. I've done this by creating rituals and intentionally sharing with my husband when I am shut down for the day, so we can connect without work distractions. When I start driving to work again, I'll be aiming to keep those work/life balance practices in place.

Co-Workers

At this point, we have all acclimated to our new “commute” and gone through a phase of identifying pets as co-workers. But we can't deny that we've lost the sense of community that comes from sharing space with the same people every day. In some ways, we may know more about our colleagues now—we may have seen into their homes, maybe even met their children or pets, on video calls—but we've lost the casual check-ins that come from passing each other in the halls. To overcome this, I make it a point to message or call co-workers from time to time just to chat. I for one will welcome the opportunity to see people in person, post-pandemic, and I'll be coordinating my schedule to prioritize face time with the right people.

Conferences

Over the last year, many conference organizers shifted to virtual offerings. While necessary and appreciated, virtual events don't have some of the more important aspects of in-person conferences. We have missed opportunities to network and have spirited conversations with colleagues we rarely see, or gain new perspectives on concepts and issues outside the confines of our offices. I look forward to the next time we can do this safely. For the time being, I've tried to take ideas out of my home office and contemplate them during a walk outside or from the change of scenery provided by the dining room. These practices of thinking through things away from our desk and attending virtual learning sessions, while not ideal, can give us the flexibility to learn and grow even if we're not able to get to a physical conference.

These are some of the many skills and capabilities that insurance professionals have developed while working through the pandemic. We ought to bring those forward once we are all able to interact in person more regularly.


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


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