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Covid-19 lockdown or not, Fulcrum’s Collections on-boarding manager, Esme Rossouw, is making the most of her participation in the Insurance Institute of Gauteng’s (IIG) Roots & Wings mentorship programme.

Roots & Wings provides mentees with a competitive edge, and access to experienced professionals within the short-term insurance industry. Tapping into a mentor’s extensive experience helps shape the mentee’s career, giving them the best possible opportunity to succeed.

In Esme’s case, she’s being mentored by Munich Re’s head of property underwriting, Thabo Twalo. Like for just about everyone else, the lockdown and its effects on the world of work are uppermost in their minds.

“I think that this experience will give impetus to organisations to experiment more with different working models. Nothing new was invented in the last four months and all the tools we are now familiar with were in existence before lockdown. The urge to explore what they are really capable of was not there until now. The adoption of new technologies and operational models is not a luxury but is the difference between survival or becoming obsolete,” says Thabo.

He continues, “The other term that is bandied about frequently is the new normal. I personally think that we are quite far from defining what this is. For example, while working from home has great benefits and many companies have achieved close to 100% productivity during this lockdown, some of these benefits are based on the fact that everyone is working from home.

“The minute you have more than 50% of team members in the office, then there will be conversations that those who are working from home miss out on. This presents new challenges in the formation of the new normal.”

For Esme, the “new normal” has meant a new way approach to work: “The Covid-19 situation made me realise that you don’t need office space or minimal office space, you can actually work from anywhere in the world … What will have to change is how we look at DR (disaster recovery) policies and SOPs (standard operating procedures) within the workplace.

“This is definitely a game changer. We need to be more flexible, adaptable and structured; this will define who you are, and [is] the difference between people who will succeed and those who will not.”

But Thabo says that video calling is still a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction, and his in-person meeting with Esme – they had a careful get-together in the outdoors – was particularly valuable.

“The value of in-person interaction cannot be overstated and while Esme and I have had really productive talks over Skype, it was through our face-to-face catch-up while exploring nature that I feel I really got to know her. Talking and walking with nature as a backdrop has a unique way of making problems that seemed insurmountable manageable.  

“Perhaps it is the fact that your body is engaged in a physical activity that unlocks the brain’s creativity, I can’t be sure. All I can say is that this was a highlight of the mentorship journey thus far and we agreed that more physical activities that allow for social distancing need to be part of our sessions in the future.”

To read more about Esme and Thabo, and the other IIG Roots & Wings pairing catch-ups, click here.