Traditionalists and critics may argue that staff working from home cannot be trusted to remain productive, or that their lack of physical team presence will dilute company culture.
Well, I’m pleased to report that AA Insurance’s foray into offering a flexible work environment has proven to be just the opposite.
Let me set the scene. Back in 2014, our Contact Centre considered offering staff greater flexibility where they worked. With a head office in Auckland’s CBD and a sister office in Hamilton, we saw the opportunity to not only reward high performing staff but also to attract new talent.
With some robust planning, testing, learning and active leadership and support for our at-home team, we quickly saw the benefits of this workforce model. For starters, staff could get on and do their work free from distractions, so productivity was up. The feeling of empowerment also improved, alongside engagement and tenure in the role.
Flexibility to work at home has meant greater flexibility of the hours that staff are willing to work, including split shifts for those working school hours and evenings when the kids have gone to bed. They’re also more willing to work additional hours at short notice if required, given their lack of travel time.
Staff work / life balance has improved immeasurably. From leaving and returning home from the office in the darkness of winter, to being able to pick the kids up from school, or get a head-start on household chores to leave weekends free for family, the rewards have often been life-changing. For staff living outside the main centres, the benefits of saving up to three hours a day in travel has led to much greater satisfaction in their role.
I’m one of these commuters. Living on a lifestyle block outside Auckland, I can save two hours travel time each day just by working from home. As a manager, I need to be in the office more often, but when I need uninterrupted time to work on strategic planning or research, working from home once a fortnight or month is the best option. I get to see the benefits of the model first-hand; I’m more engaged and feel a sense of ease from having more control over the flexibility of my work environment.
It’s these kinds of successful staff and business outcomes that have spurred us to use this model for recruiting new starters in the Contact Centre, including those who work solely at home. It has attracted talent who wouldn’t have otherwise applied for a role based at head office.
The model did require a few important recruitment processes however, such as clarity over the expected work environment, and maintaining company culture. We must be sure people realise they can’t work on a laptop in front of the telly while the kids are running around. Instead they’ll need a dedicated office space and no childcare responsibilities during work hours.
Each new starter is then taken through a robust induction programme, with the bulk of training completed at home. They also have a dedicated team leader who provides regular coaching and support, and ensures the team chats online throughout the day, as they would in a face-to-face work environment. This helps maintain a team spirit, and provides motivation and engagement in what could otherwise be a socially isolating work environment.
The outcome has been extremely beneficial for all involved – our first work-at-home team celebrated its one year anniversary in April, and another team has already started. With around 15% of the Contact Centre team permanently working from home, there’s a plan to grow this number over the coming year.
About AA Insurance
AA Insurance is an independently operated, New Zealand-based joint venture between the New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) and Vero Insurance New Zealand Limited (VINZL). Since 1994 we have demonstrated trusted expertise in home, contents and car insurance in New Zealand, and in 2018 introduced commercial small business insurance. We underwrite our own policies and sell direct to New Zealanders. Our 930+ staff look after over 480,000 customers with 970,000 policies.
We proudly partner with Variety NZ and Eden Park and have been consistently recognised by: Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands (since 2011) and Quality Service Awards for Car, and Home and Contents Insurance (since 2015), Kantar Customer Leadership Index (since 2019), Canstar Blue Most Satisfied Customers (2011-2018), and the Colmar Brunton Corporate Reputation Index (since 2015) that recognises New Zealand’s most successful companies. AA Insurance was also named Consumer NZ People’s Choice award winner for car, home and contents (2019 and 2020).
AA Insurance has an AA- (Very Strong) Insurer Financial Strength Rating given by Standard and Poor’s (Australia) Pty Ltd. For further information visit aainsurance.co.nz.
For more information please contact:
Rachael Joel, Botica Butler Raudon Partners, (09) 303 3862, 021 403 504 or rachaelJ@botica.co.nz
Amanda Fifield, AA Insurance, 027 406 1787, firstname.lastname@example.org