A great office begins by emphasizing the wellness of employees and customers. Here’s how to redesign your office to meet the needs of today’s insurance industry.
When you imagine your ideal office, a clear image comes to mind of a space that is innocuous yet powerful, traditional yet simple, one that has been perfectly fine for the industry's needs. However, as times change, so should the office space.
An insurance agency is a place that needs to be presentable to clients, yet productive for agents. It also needs to embrace the unique ways that its occupants are evolving.
A great office begins by emphasizing the wellness of employees and customers. By focusing on who it serves, it becomes clear what design choices will lead to success.
As millennials continue to establish their careers and start families, Generation Xers are building and diversifying their wealth. It wasn't too long ago that the average agent was significantly older than their customers—and offices often catered to that. However, the age gap between the average agent and customer is narrowing, which inherently unites the wants and needs of both parties.
As the workforce becomes younger, agents are bringing their strengths to the table in a big way. A desire to embrace technology, prioritize efficiency and create flexible environments is a must for these new agents. Offices need to be feature-rich but also tailored to the unique needs of the industry, sales process and demographics.
It's easier to take an intuitive approach when designing, starting with simple inspiration that can support individual details and features. It has also become easier to compromise by doing more instead of sacrificing one group's wants other another, such as clients over staff or young over old. However, spaces that all parties occupy can be equally pleasing and comfortable.
What's the best way to make sure your employees and clients are satisfied? Seek out feedback from all parties. You might be surprised what insights can come from all sides.
Younger clients are more likely to appreciate the details that make them feel welcome and confident during the sales process. They view the working relationship with an agent as a value-add over an anonymous online process. Be considerate about your business' demographic while you reimagine your office space.
Flexibility Is Key in Hybrid Workplaces
The way we approach work has changed dramatically. Even the insurance industry made a mostly remote transition and many offices have continued to maintain a fully or partially remote presence.
Flexibility is at the forefront of many design considerations. The emerging hybrid workspace has posed a few unique challenges, often diminishing the appeal of traditional private offices that double as a meeting space.
Instead of creating grandiose board rooms, smaller conference spaces that can fit two to four people are perfect for accommodating employees that spend their time at both the corporate and home office. This ensures that they have a pleasant space to meet with clients that's separate from their primary workspace.
Accommodate hybrid employees' needs with hot desking. These workstations can be reserved and used as needed by different employees, eliminating the space needed for large individual workstations and encouraging a healthy balance of worktime.
Finally, don't forget the technology that has made it possible to create a hybrid workforce. Collaboration tools provide easy ways to share information with clients, and access to power is crucial to ensure that everybody is well-equipped and confident in every interaction.
As you rethink your office space to meet today's needs, here are four design strategies to consider:
1) Don't overpower—empower. Financial services offices used to have an aesthetic with a specific intent: To make the representative look as powerful as possible. Trust was one-sided and clients weren't encouraged to take ownership and pride in their financial journeys. This tide is changing for many reasons and the look and feel of the office is a major factor in client comfort.
2) Lighten up. As you create a cohesive palette, shy away from dated colors. In general, lean towards brighter neutrals and finishes that are overall lighter. Don't be afraid to use trendy colors for accent walls or other easy-to-revamp pieces that can change with the trends.
3) Brighten up. Take advantage of the natural light in the office but be aware of where your customer is sitting. In general, you don't want to be backlit, making it so that the sun hits the client's eyes and you're stranded in the shadows. Use sheer curtains to diffuse any harsh sunbeams without totally darkening the space.
If you're short on sunlight, use floor and table lamps to illuminate the room. This targeted lighting can also make it easy to keep glare off your computer screen to avoid distraction. If you're relying on overhead lighting, use warm-toned, welcoming bulbs.
4) Define your style. When it comes to furniture and fixtures, there's nothing wrong with embracing a style that's unique to your tastes and brand.
The insurance sales process is inherently collaborative and addressing the needs of both the agent and the client ensures that both parties can meet in the middle and find the best solutions for each individual case. Feedback, communication and a willingness to continue innovation ensures that you'll have a successful workplace for years to come.
Tonya Dybdahl is space planning and design department manager for National Business Furniture.