Two years after its opening, Zurich North America’s (ZNA) HQ outside Chicago continues to stand out as a leading-edge workplace. Informed by a comprehensive employee engagement effort – Zurich built a pilot floor 18 months before the building opened where 150-plus employees tested possible furniture, technology and layout to share feedback – the workplace is reflective of Zurich’s vision for the future.

Thanks to the company’s commitment to an experience-centric design, Zurich’s HQ is driving measurable results. Employee satisfaction with the workplace is 30% higher than before and there has been a significant uptick in team interactions, work flexibility and wellness. Not surprisingly, the building has won numerous awards and garnered extensive national media attention.

To get a glimpse into how the HQ is driving a culture of excellence at Zurich, we recently chatted with Teresa Logue, the company’s Head of LEAN Management about the building, her team and more.

Thanks so much for your time today. For starters, can you tell us a bit more about your role at ZNA?

Absolutely. I lead our 25-person LEAN management team as we strive for continuous improvement across our business units. We help our leaders manage more effectively and efficiently, enhance communication and collaboration, improve quality, and identify the best processes to improve customer experience.

What are tools and tactics can you share that reflects how your team achieves constant improvement?

One of our core LEAN management approaches is a disciplined, fact-based approach that we execute with each of our different business units. This includes a six-week diagnostic effort that utilizes various analytic tools to evaluate the team across several dimensions, a six-week design phase to co-create a new model for how they can work, and then 10 weeks of hands-on implementation where my team works alongside managers to teach, train, reinforce and implement change. It’s a continuous process which delivers value for our employees, managers, customers and the organization at large.

Another tool we use is the employee barometer. We use it to help employees and their managers see how they’re navigating the change curve. It reflects both how the team is doing in change adoption and helps identify strengths and gaps to address. It teaches our people how to effectively manage change and continuously improve while building problem-solving skills and capabilities.

Zurich North America

Now that your team has been in the new HQ for two years, can you share anecdotal ways the building is reshaping company culture?

Yes, there are a few different perspectives I can share. For my own team, the open spaces in the HQ do create more opportunities for natural and organic conversation and collaboration. For us, the very nature of our work requires us to literally reach across the aisle and work with other people. The space enhances our ability to do that in the HQ and the technology resources we now have enhanced how we collaborate with our teams across the country.

When I think beyond our team, the amenities available to our staff on the first floor are amazing and create a new energy for our people. The coffee bar enables more natural internal networking and collaboration. Our on-site fitness center connects people – I use it every morning – and you see our people using it throughout the day. The walking paths and exterior spaces are integrated into the building’s campus, our teams use them often and in more ways than we had imagined.

One thing our team at CannonDesign talks about frequently is marrying design with policy and culture change. Can you offer an example of how ZNA does this successfully?

I think how we’ve evolved our annual Play to Win kick-off meeting is a strong example. It’s an annual effort by our CEO and the C-Suite to engage our staff around our business goals and new strategies. In years past, our CEO and the C-Suite would literally travel across the country visiting offices to hold the event on different days.

This year, for the first time ever, we had all offices join via video conference to experience the presentation as one team. It was really beautiful and symbolic of our company’s message that “we’re all playing to win together.” It also inherently enhanced communication and transparency as everyone heard the same message and received the exact same information. I think it was a significant milestone for Zurich’s company culture in many ways, and I think our new building and its enhanced technology helped fuel the evolution.

Zurich North America

That’s great, do other examples jump to mind?

The new workplace allows some Zurich values to echo louder. We talk about wellness and the new HQ has sit/stand desks for everyone, an on-site, state-of-the-art fitness center and extensive outdoor walking paths and fitness opportunities. We talk about sustainability and this building is certified LEED Platinum, there’s abundant access to green space, hybrid car parking spots – the list goes on. We’ve always had these values, they’re evident in exciting new ways now.

Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one thing you’d like to see updated or changed in the year ahead?

The change I’d like to see is more cultural. Our HQ has so many different spaces and settings where people can work. People are collaborating more in these spaces throughout the day, but I still don’t see employees picking up their laptops and going to work in the lounge, or an open collaboration zone consistently. That kind of freedom is what the building is designed to empower, I still think we have some work to do to make it an inherent way of how our people use the building.

What’s the No. 1 thing that’s surprised you about the new workplace?

I don’t know if I’d call it a surprise, but it’s the energy in the building. It feels so different to me than our previous space in the towers. I’ve always loved coming to work, but more than that now, I love coming to this building. I feel something when I walk in that’s welcoming and energizing. Maybe that’s what surprises me, how great I feel in the space each day.

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