During the coronavirus pandemic, insurers have played a vital part in bolstering the nation’s financial and mental wellbeing during this unprecedented time in our history. In March 2020, the industry committed to a series of pledges to support customers during the crisis, including flexible policy conditions and policy extensions under certain circumstances.
Whilst the focus has rightly been on supporting customers over the past year and a half, the mental wellbeing of insurers, brokers and other insurance professionals has received less attention.
A position of responsibility
Insurance professionals have been very much on the frontline of the crisis, assisting increasing numbers of vulnerable customers who have found themselves in reduced financial circumstances. They have helped many people through the loss of loved ones and been instrumental in helping individuals and businesses to stay afloat through the recession.
Little wonder, then, that 60% of insurance professionals reported suffering depression, anxiety, emotional distress or another health condition during the pandemic. The startling figure was revealed by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) in an online poll of 336 people working in the insurance sector in January this year.
Keith Richards, chief of the CII, said: “In 2020, COVID-19 impacted every customer served by the insurance profession resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of customers in vulnerable circumstances.” He continued: “It is vital the insurance profession puts themselves in their customers’ shoes and considers how they would wish to be treated if they had mental ill-health. However, you can only help others if you look after your own mental health.”
It’s OK not to be OK
The first step to looking after your mental health is recognising that you may be struggling and in need of some support.
In Aviva’s 2021 Mental Health Guide for brokers, the insurer identifies certain symptoms which may indicate that you or somebody you know may be struggling with their mental health. These include increased irritability or anxiety, a loss of interest in personal appearance, hobbies or work, weight changes, withdrawal, fatigue and physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive issues, among others.
The guide suggests some simple lifestyle changes that can help brokers keep on top of their mental health, including:
- Talking openly with your manager or trade union representative about any issues that may be troubling you at work
- ‘Checking in’ regularly with your manager or other team members
- Reviewing your working environment – whether remote or in the office – and taking regular breaks
- Switching off at home with mindfulness or positive leisure activities, rather than an ‘always on’ approach
- Keeping active with regular physical activity
- Getting into a regular sleep routine.
Removing the stigma
One positive impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been an increased focus on the importance of positive mental health, and the removal of some of the stigma that has long prevented sufferers from talking about their feelings or seeking help.
With the aim of further removing the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) launched a survey in April to assess the state of mental health across the insurance sector, with a view to improving mental health and wellbeing support for insurance professionals.
The survey is still open, and can be filled in here: https://www.biba.org.uk/latest-news/mental-wellbeing-survey/
Remember, Focus is committed to providing a high level of service and support to our brokers. As our motto goes, we’re always happy to talk.