Coronavirus Special

The coronavirus pandemic has dispelled all certainties in record time. At the beginning of April, The Difference talked to colleagues from all over the world, asking them how their life and work had changed since the outbreak of the virus. A review and outlook in moving times.

Published in June 2020 Author: Markus Scheele
Pedro Pancorbo Parras, HDI Global SE, Spain
Pedro Pancorbo Parras

“The current situation is very emotional. Luckily, I haven’t experienced any cases of relatives being infected with the coronavirus. But we need to be very careful and vigilant. I’m continuing to work as before but in my home office. During recent weeks, our IT people have been working tirelessly to do everything possible in order to enable us to carry on our work without having to go into the office. I’m in contact with my colleagues every day, we call each other a couple of times a week or we meet up in a video conference. We talk about our work but we also discuss our personal experiences over the course of the week. It’s great to carry on this personal contact with my colleagues. In the afternoon, I play with my son who is almost one year old now. We always plan in some sports exercises because we’re not allowed to go outside or train.”

Roberto Mosca, HDI Assicurazioni S.p.A., Italy
Roberto Mosca

“HDI in Italy recognised how serious the situation was at an early stage and where possible, we tried to stay ahead of the statutory measures. Working under these conditions is not easy but we rose to the challenge of the situation within a very short space of time. As insurers, the government has classified us as one of the strategic sectors that need to continue to be operational even during this lockdown phase. During this difficult period, we believed that it was also necessary to support the ‘Lazzaro Spallanzani’ Institute, a centre for carrying out research into infectious diseases in Italy. Our company has made a donation precisely where it is necessary: research is in the front line of this battle against an invisible enemy. More than ever before, our purpose remains a top priority: Together we take care of the unexpected and foster entrepreneurship. We are demonstrating responsibility, commitment, a sense of community and cooperation at a time when each and every individual needs to make a contribution. But we are sure that ‘everything will come out all right’ – ‘Andrà tutto bene’, as we are currently saying in Italy.”

Jim Clark, HDI Global Insurance Company, USA
Jim Clark

“I told all my colleagues in Chicago that the Coronavirus Crisis was our chance to really live the new Talanx purpose: Together we take care of the unexpected and foster entrepreneurship. I challenged everyone to rise to the occasion and make sure that we operate in a “business as usual” mode as far as our clients and brokers were concerned. I can gladly and confidently say that we have risen to the challenge. But I have to say: I’ve personally never experienced a crisis like this in my lifetime. These are truly unprecedented times. Of course, I am concerned about the health and safety of my family. But I think that if everyone plays his or her part in maintaining social distancing, we will be alright. Working from home has been a big change but mostly for positive reasons. My normal commute is one plus hours each way so that I already have two extra hours of productivity each day. When we decided to move to working from home, we rolled out ‘Microsoft Teams’ for our staff. This has dramatically changed the way we collaborate and work together in just a few short weeks. Once we go back to normal, we will work in a whole new way.”

Kerstin Steffen, HDI Kundenservice AG, Germany
Kerstin Steffen

“When the infection statistics started to accelerate upwards so rapidly, schools and nurseries were also closed down and the government recommended stopping all contact with vulnerable groups and older people, I got really anxious about the situation. I’m very much a family person and I’m missing my parents, my sister and my friends terribly! It’s really difficult not to have any contact with people you are close to. I’m happy that I have a dog that I can be affectionate to without being afraid of becoming infected and that I can take my dog out on walks into natural surroundings. Working at home is also lonely. I’m finding it very difficult to get used to sitting on my own in a room without any colleagues. I talk to the two girls from my office on video calls. At least we can see each other that way. I’m really grateful that I can do mobile working and operate flexibly from home. In this way, HDI took away a dreadful anxiety and burden for me as a mother. I notice that we’re really pulling together in our department, we’re there for each other and we’re providing each other with fantastic mutual support.”

Françoise Paviot, HDI Global SE, France
Françoise Paviot

“In France, we have been experiencing restrictions on public life since the middle of March. Since then, we have been working in our home office. I really miss the contact with my colleagues: a cup of coffee in the morning, lunch in the canteen, a friendly “hello” when they walk past my office. Luckily our new boss, Florence Louppe, is very good at fostering a sense of everyone being in this together in order to maintain the corporate spirit and encourage everybody to keep their spirits up. The positive aspect from my perspective is that in this absolutely unprecedented situation we have rediscovered the telephone again instead of always communicating by email or messaging on social networks. Personally, I find it rather difficult to stay at home and not be able to see my family and my friends. I also love going out in the countryside and I’m a member of a rambling club. I miss our long walks out in the country around Paris on Sundays. And I’m also missing my regular runs through the city parks because they’re all closed now. I just don’t know how long it’s all going to last. How long we’re going to have to stay at home. But we accept this sacrifice so that we can stay healthy and protect each other against the virus.”

Enida Jahic, HDI Versicherung AG, Austria
Enida Jahic

“It’s totally crazy how rapidly our everyday lives have been turned upside down. Sometimes it seems to me as though time is standing still. Now we all have to be patient and stand shoulder to shoulder so as to get through this period as best we can. Here in Vienna, we’re having to practise living with a ban on going out. Leaving your own four walls is only permitted for making purchases that are absolutely necessary such as food or medicines. Meeting up with friends or visits to a restaurant have been banned for some time now. I think that we will value our freedom all the more when the Coronavirus Crisis has come to an end. HDI in Austria implemented the transfer to working from home for virtually all employees quickly and efficiently within the space of just a few days. This ensures that everybody can continue working as before, they’re simply working from a home office instead. I’m proud and very thankful that I work in a company like HDI which really looks after its employees. You have a sense of security that the company is right behind you. This is particularly important in the current quite exceptional situation.”

Claire McDonald, HDI Global SE, United Kingdom
Claire McDonald

“At HDI in the United Kingdom, we could see it coming. So we were already testing mobile working and deciding which staff needed laptops in February. Ahead of government action on the lockdown, we took the call to transfer to home-office working. I’m lucky that I live in a house where we have plenty of room and some land – so from a personal perspective, it’s easy for me to comply with the rules. I feel sorry for my son who was due to take his exams. It feels very surreal. I think that the question that hangs over us now is: How long will this be for? No-one knows. At least my dog is very happy that I’m at home.”

Stefan Feldmann, HDI Global SE, Australia
Stefan Feldmann

“In the middle of March, we took the decision to work from home the following day. Everyone embraced this challenge at such short notice and moved forward in a very positive and proactive spirit, which was great to see. The focus for us right from the start was that we simply couldn’t afford to let our high level of service drop at all and we wanted to retain our responsiveness. But we also wanted to be seen with a very tangible presence, and demonstrate that we are here to continue supporting the needs of our clients and brokers. Staying very close to brokers and customers is more important than ever. Our usual mantra of ‘see a broker a day’ has now been replaced by ‘call five brokers a day’. I now have far more telephone conversations with employees, clients and brokers, and video conferences replace our interstate travel, and trips to New Zealand and Singapore. A big hit with our brokers was our initiative to send out Uber Eats vouchers worth 20 Australian dollars. It was a nice way to demonstrate the ‘take care’ in our purpose and show that the welfare of our brokers remains close to our hearts at this critical time. Another success was a virtual cooking event where a celebrity chef cooked with our brokers via Zoom. We had delivered all ingredients to them beforehand. Amongst ourselves, I feel that despite the current distance we are increasingly growing closer together as a team, even though we are working remotely. We got to know each other really well for example when we all took part in a 4-Week-Challenge where various colleagues challenged themselves with something unusual. I decided for example to do an abstract painting, which was a completely new experience for me and something most of my colleagues didn’t really expect me to do.”

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