Underwriting is often assumed to be a solitary role: just you, your client, and the ultimate decision. With straightforward applications, I suppose this could be true, but the more complex medical histories are where all the fun happens. Analyzing the big picture you’ve pieced together at the end of the APS, combing through the ratings, and assessing the overall risk? Incredibly rewarding.
But what about those cases that befuddle you beyond belief? Well that’s what your friendly co-workers are for! Think of how often you spontaneously turned to them when working in a physical office, puzzling out tricky handwriting, complex comorbidities and gray areas, or even reveling in a doctor’s unusual choice of vocabulary. It happens often enough because, as the old adage goes, “Two heads are better than one.”
Now, due to the pandemic, it’s a much different scenario with many, if not all of us, working from home. While some home environments can offer concentration and focus, what happens to those gray areas and chicken-scratch clinicals where you could use a second opinion? Who do you turn to?
Removed from the bustle of an office setting, working remote can have some benefits—but I never realized how much I learned through hashing out files with a few peers or hearing a fresh take on a file I’d been staring at for an hour. I didn’t even realize how much I absorbed through osmosis, accidentally overhearing others’ debates and internalizing the lessons learned.
Having worked from home for more than a year (I was already working remote prior to the pandemic), I’ve come to a few realizations. One of the biggest has been that I took the proximity of my coworkers for granted. However, I’ve managed to find ways to stay connected and still reap the rewards of a team environment. Below are my tips to keep us home officers connected to the brains of our confrères and the hearts of our teams.
Top Tips for Staying Connected to Coworkers While Working from Home
- Use Detailed DMs for Quick Answers: Have a quick question? Shoot off an instant message to someone on your contact list—preferably someone whose status is set to available, of course. Try to cram as much info into your message box as possible while remaining concise and to the point. This strategy is best employed for either generalized or closed-ended questions.
- Write Bulleted E-mails for a Closer Review: A more intricate file needs some extra scrutiny? Spell it out in an e-mail. Try using bullet points, starting with the broad strokes of the file and narrowing down into the finicky points you need a hand with. Use of complete sentences is encouraged.
- Share Your Screen to Decipher Handwriting: Can’t read some handwriting in an APS? You can still have someone take a look. Share your screen remotely with a colleague. Better yet, use the Snip Tool program (if you have a Windows operating system) and send a snippy of the writing to your cohort by IM or e-mail. ALWAYS ensure that you are not sending through any info that could identify the client (name, date of birth, address, etc.). This tool is best used for a few words or a couple of sentences at a time—again, the client must not be identifiable for privacy reasons.
- Don’t Hesitate to Call for a Second Opinion: On the fence about a case and want to bounce it off someone? Pick up the telephone and have a good old-fashioned chat about it. Many believe this ancient form of communication is bothersome and bogs our workday down, but I politely disagree. My spoken words-per-minute far outstrips my typed ones, I can get feedback from my peer immediately, and we can debate the finer points of a rating much quicker than pecking at a keyboard. Plus, let’s not forget the value of remaining connected to a human being, being part of the team, and having a voice to go with a name.
- Connect as a Team: Group discussions can be had by a multi-member instant message group, a conference call, or even a video call these days. Much can be gained from gathering a few perspectives on strategic conversations or creating a learning opportunity from a particularly challenging APS.
- Keep Learning: Want to learn about something? Google it (from a respectable source, naturally). Staying curious and leading your own proactive learning experience can help you continue to enhance your professional development when working from home.
- Stay in Touch: In the interest of transparency, I’d like to point out that although these tools are magnificent, for the most part, you have to go out of your way to use them. Sometimes out of sight IS out of mind, and though that’s not intentional, you may need to remind your colleagues you’re still there. Never be afraid to reach out and just say hi or ask for help. We might be remote, but we’re all part of the same team, working towards the same goals, ready to lend a hand whenever possible.
With the added flexibility, productivity, and other benefits of working from home, keeping intentional goals and strategies to stay on track is important. Do you have another tip for remote underwriting? Let us know on LinkedIn or Twitter!