Caring for our temporary housing colleagues, so they can take care of customers

September 27, 2023

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When you think about first responders, what image comes to mind? For many, it’s police, firefighters, paramedics or 911 operators. Those in the insurance industry may see loss adjusters assessing damage. Unless you work in our field, it’s unlikely you picture a team of housing coordinators.

While they may not represent the most common image of emergency response, these dedicated and talented professionals play a vital role in the aftermath of disasters large and small. After all, few things are more important following a catastrophic event than ensuring those affected, as well as those involved in the remediation and recovery efforts, have a safe and convenient place to stay. Sedgwick’s temporary housing team provides a critical service and delivers empathy amid difficult circumstances, so it’s essential we do all we can to help them perform at their best.

Training for trauma

One thing that differentiates Sedgwick from other temporary housing providers is how we train our people on the emotional aspects of catastrophe response. The work we do extends far beyond booking hotel rooms and rental homes; we help people while they are processing the logistical and emotional impact of a significant, and perhaps life-changing, loss.

When an insured policyholder contacts us, it’s because their home is no longer livable due to a fire, hurricane, tornado, flood or other type of disaster. They are displaced from their safe haven and don’t know what the future holds. Chances are they’ve lost some of their possessions, too. They may even have lost a family member or pet in the catastrophe. Depending on their situation, they may feel sad, angry, hopeless, anxious, grief-stricken or all of the above. Many want to do more in the moment than secure temporary housing; they’re looking to process their loss and connect with another person who can assure them things will be OK.

To forge those meaningful connections, our colleagues must learn how to see things from the caller’s perspective, act with empathy, and properly handle the raw emotions that accompany each situation. And beyond learning how to take care of policyholders, they need to know how to care for themselves, too. To that end, we partner with one of America’s foremost experts on emergency responder trauma to deliver onboarding training and ongoing education to all of our temporary housing colleagues. We hear from many of them that the training gives them a critical perspective on the challenging work they do each day and helps them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Leading with empathy

Another key differentiator is the culture we aim to foster in our temporary housing environment. Because our colleagues’ daily conversations can be emotionally draining, we want our workplace to be a safe space where they can talk through things, rather than internalize negativity. We train our managers to guide those conversations in productive ways and help colleagues cope with the stresses of the job.

Because the temporary housing team works together in a single office location, our leadership is able to practice “management by walking around.” This helps our managers get to know the team, build trust, and monitor how calls are going. Sometimes they determine that a call should be transferred to another specialist or escalated to a supervisor; other times, they identify a colleague in need of a break or supportive coaching to head off the risk of burnout. Our commitment to collaboration and empathy helps colleagues feel supported and valued for more than their work product.

We’re also proud to offer our colleagues a comprehensive benefit package that supports their overall health and well-being. Through Sedgwick’s employee assistance program (EAP) and personal health assistant benefits, colleagues can access a range of support resources to meet their individual needs. Several team members have shared how helpful these benefits were to them during difficult times, when they were struggling with personal issues and the emotional weight of the job.

It is this positive and supportive environment, combined with the satisfaction of performing meaningful work and receiving glowing reviews from customers, that keeps colleagues coming back day after day.

Managing on-the-job stress

One of the greatest challenges of working with distressed individuals is striking the right balance of tapping into your empathy without getting overwhelmed. Here are a few tips we give our temporary housing team to help them manage their day-to-day stress levels:

  • Listen to your body: We encourage colleagues to take regular breaks throughout the workday — and to enjoy time away from work — to avoid pushing themselves too hard. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest and physical activity are important building blocks to their well-being and professional success.
  • Have the strength to let go: Everyone who works in claims occasionally has a negative encounter with an irate customer. Becoming the job and holding on to the negative block one’s ability to move forward —fostering anxiety and anger. We want colleagues to recognize that any negativity directed at them likely has little to do with them and everything to do with the caller’s frustration at their own challenging circumstances.
  • Stop biting the hooks: Self-awareness is essential in our line of work. To use a fishing analogy, we want our colleagues to identify the “hooks” that really bother them, so they can control whether or not to bite. For example, a colleague mourning the recent loss of a pet is not the best fit to assist a distraught caller whose pet just died in a house fire. While that experience might eventually help the colleague better empathize with a customer going through a similar loss, we much prefer they speak up (either in the moment or before their shift) and ask for help, rather than relive their trauma in the course of their work.

At Sedgwick, our caring counts philosophy begins with our colleagues. If we take good care of them, we know they’ll take good care of our clients’ partners and policyholders when it matters most.

Learn more – read about our temporary housing solutions, and explore career opportunities as part of Sedgwick’s temporary housing team (use search term “housing”)

Tags: caring, Caring counts, caring culture, Employees, employer, Helping people, Housing, housing service, temporary housing