Biba is continuing to work with its members to raise awareness about the impact of mental health 

Stress affects three in five brokers and heavy workloads were the biggest contributor, with 82% citing it as a problem.

Furthermore, stress itself was found to be the most commonly experienced mental health issue.

This was according to Ecclesiastical, which also revealed that brokers who work for national networks are more likely to experience a mental health issue as opposed to those working for regional and provincial brokerages.

Insurance Times reached out to brokers in the industry to dig a little deeper into this issue, asking what practices firms employed at their own workplaces.

Nick Houghton, managing director at brokerage, JM Glendinnings told Insurance Times that he welcomes a spotlight being shone on this area, and that he hopes it helps people find the courage to ask for help or be helped by a colleague. 

He said: ”I think it’s difficult to compartmentalise mental health issues to purely work related matters, as from experience other influences outside of work can contribute to someone’s health and wellbeing and clearly this is not connected to whether you work for a large or a smaller organisation.”

JM Glendinnings is committed to training its teams in the things to look out for to try and supprt abd address where a colleague may be struggling before things get worse. 

Sense of belonging 

Houghton said that one major difference between a very large organisation and a smaller one is the feeling of ”belonging and access to people at the top of the organisation” should someone want to raise something.

He continued: ”It’s much easier to feel like you can put your hand up and ask the chief executive for help in our business with 106 people as opposed to an organisation with thousands of people in it. That sense of “I can make a real difference here” and “I have authority to make a decision easily” in a smaller broking business is liberating and contributes to how you feel about and deal with your work – having come from a corporate background the way I feel is that I have freedom to act and do the right thing. That was not always the case in my previous corporate roles as there were so many more people influencing what you did day to day and in a sense restricting your ability to do the right thing for your team and your clients when it’s needed.

But he also thinks that market consolidation has a part to play in how people are feeling and coping with work matters at the moment. ”A constant sense of I could get made redundant in a larger organisation is difficult to work with and can hang like a Damoclean sword over your head. In regional broking businesses this is far less of a worry as we tend not to make such sweeping decisions.”

Openness and understanding

Mental health is an issue that Biba’s chief executive Steve White told Insurance Times he has been championing in the broking world for quite some time.

He said that Ecclesiastical’s survey presents a “unique insight into the mental wellbeing of insurance brokers and their findings support previous results suggesting that working in financial services is 44% more likely than other occupations to result in workplace stress”. This is according to Business in the Community’s Mental Health at Work Report 2018.

“Clearly this is something that every employer in the sector has to be concerned with, which is why Biba has been working to raise awareness about the importance of having openness and understanding around mental illness within firms,” White added.

This is because, as a topic, mental wellbeing was one of the most raised concerns among Biba’s membership. White explained that there is a great deal of interest around doing the right thing.

This week, Biba offered its members the opportunity to send employees on mental health first aid training at only 25% of the usual cost thanks to a Biba subsidy.

White continued: “The extent to which different firms are affected by mental ill health is not something that has been raised with us, but we know that many of our larger members do have wellness programmes in place and Biba is committed to helping brokers to build an open culture around wellness.”

Back in October, the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) committed to prioritising mental health and wellbeing of employees.

Under pressure

Meanwhile Club Insure believes that part of the solution is recognising workplace issues and putting measures in place to help team members manage stress effectively.

Encouraging staff to look after their own wellbeing, and offering help to do this, is key to reducing stress and creating a positive and thriving workplace, Victoria Romero-Trigo, director and one of the founders at Club Insure, told Insurance Times.

Small cog

Romero-Trigo echoed Houghton’s comment on the importance of a sense of belonging, she said: “Insurance brokers are under increasing pressure – with heavy workloads and often high levels of responsibility. It’s important to have a strong management team and support structure in place to help employees deal with the stresses they face, from pressure to hit targets right through to following complex regulations.”

“Workplace stress is particularly felt amongst national brokers, with many left feeling they are a small cog in a large machine. Its important staff are able to discuss their feelings and flag when things are getting too much, but they must feel confident their voices will be heard.”

Having a voice

Club Insure uses an engagement platform – TINYpulse - to send regular surveys to its team, which give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings as well as contribute to future plans and wellbeing schemes.

The specialist broker prioritises workplace wellbeing, for example encouraging staff to take part in on-site exercise classes, lunchtime walks and a running club, right through to offering free counselling sessions, on-site health checks, access to a free wellbeing app and wellbeing seminars.

“Not only does this help keep our team happy and healthy – it ensures they are well-equipped to do what they do best: help our customers,” Romero-Trigo said.

She recalled winning a Gold for Excellence in Professional Development the Insurance Times Awards in November after the firm demonstrated its wellbeing initiative in front of the judges. She said that the award showcases the firm’s true dedication to creating a positive workplace culture.

Open dialogue  

Houghton believes that ”education and an open dialogue across the business” is a first step. It also promotes regular one-to-one time away from the desk between colleagues and managers to talk about how things are. The brokerage is constantly reviewing workloads to ensure wherever possible our teams are not drowning in work. Alongside this it promotes non-insurance work activities such as charitable work and team activities, and funds health plans for everyone which gives them access to health professionals in case they want to speak  to someone confidentiality. Once a month it brings in a masseur for free massages in the office. 

He concluded that he understands the outcome of the survey but reiterated that mental health issues can strike anyone regardless of where they work.

”But the relative freedom and sense of contribution you get in a smaller business does help you deal with the stresses and strains of working in a very competitive, regulated, market place,” Houghton said.