Pandemic Stress: A Challenge for Agents

By | April 20, 2020

One challenge that agents face during this pandemic has been ignored: high stress levels, not just from housebound, income-challenged clients but also from agency staff working from home. I have heard many stories from agents: quiet neighbors suddenly given to uncontrollable, profanity-laced anger and account managers trying to talk over a barking dog and clingy child while dealing with a panicked restaurant owner. It’s taking a toll and more attention needs to be paid to mitigate it.

All of us occasionally work from home and think nothing of it. The current circumstances are far more serious: staff confined for long periods of time, a spouse also working from home or laid off/furloughed and children adapting (or not) to not being in school. This column is focused normally on just technology issues. There are tools and strategies that can mitigate some of the angst described here, (an office with a closed door comes to mind). This pandemic, however, is all-encompassing and the issue of stress deserves special attention. In such a chaotic and distracting environment, productivity inevitably takes a hit. And if peace-of-mind is what agents want to deliver to clients, how is that possible without peace-of-mind at home?

Agents can point to their work under pressure after a natural catastrophe, but those events are of limited duration and handled within a fully functional office. Working from home, week in and week out, is becoming the new normal but doing so presents new challenges.

To his credit, Scott Addis’ Beyond Insurance Global Network (BIGN) addressed this issue head-on. In one of several far-ranging online BIGN sessions, Evan Marcus, a well-known executive coach and authority on stress, outlined the steps agents must take in identifying, mitigating and preventing the damage inflicted on their staffs by stress and by extension, their clients. Some elements may seem obvious but are important parts of the process.

  1. Describe the Situation. Be careful to retell it, not relive it. For example, we are quarantined in less than ideal conditions, working from the kitchen table, etc.
  2. What Are Your Symptoms, Both Physical and Mental? For example, light-headed, unsettled, headache, irritated, this will never end, feeling stuck, I can’t work this way.
  3. What Spots or Phrases Can You Apply? Examples include the following:
    • Don’t put a time limit on when this situation or symptoms will stop.
    • People don’t like change.
    • Drop the judgment on ourselves and on others for the sake of our peace of mind.
    • People do things that annoy us, not to annoy us.
  4. Note Your Progress and Celebrate Your Successes.

Marcus acknowledged the short fuses most of us display, more so, during these times. He identified two types of temper: angry temper, when you judge someone else’s action as wrong and fearful temper, when you judge your own actions as wrong. To control our temper, he says that losing it is our own worst enemy. “We drop our temper when we realize we are its casualty.”

Lastly, Marcus made note of an important thing to always consider: “perfection is a hope, a dream, and an illusion.” Point being that stress can’t be taken lightly and dismissed with a “deal with it” retort. It’s real, it’s insidious and it affects the bottom-line.

Wetzel is CEO of Thomas H. Wetzel & Associates, an insurance marketing firm for independent agents whose services include a partnership with LivePerson, the Wetzel Digital Roadmap, website design, and more. Website: www.wetzelandassociates.com. Email: twetzel@wetzelandassociates.com.

About Tom Wetzel

Wetzel is CEO of Thomas H. Wetzel & Associates, an insurance marketing firm for independent agents whose services include a partnership with LivePerson to bring HIPAA-certified messaging and IBM Watson to the insurance industry, the Wetzel Digital Roadmap, website design and maintenance, and content creation. Website: www.wetzelandassociates.com. Email: twetzel@wetzelandassociates.com. More from Tom Wetzel

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Insurance Journal West April 20, 2020
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