To help inform its new North American headquarters set to open in 2016, Zurich North America created a remarkably extensive workplace pilot program with more than 150 employees spending three weeks testing each of four uniquely configured neighborhoods. The employees split time between individual workstations and shared spaces throughout the pilot floor and experienced different styles office desks, chairs, enclaves, conference rooms, and informal meeting spaces that could potentially be incorporated into the future headquarters.
Zurich North America exemplifies how to be smart about investments in design and, perhaps more importantly, people.
Other key excerpts from the piece include:
On Data-Informed Decision Making
Jennifer Kyung, HQ Business Lead at Zurich said, “We use data to make other decisions, why wouldn’t we use the same approach to make decisions for people to be effective in the workplace? This building is not just a new building, but a catalyst on our journey to be the best.”
Meg Osman, Executive Director of CannonDesign’s Corporate/Commercial Practice added, “We have learned a lot as part of this process. Anytime you’re working on something without the proper data and measurements, the design aspect can be quite subjective – and that can be frustrating. Here, at Zurich, they will go into the new space confident they have the right solution.”
On Research Driving Investment
Based on trends in the industry, the team originally included small enclaves with casual “club” seating in the test spaces. What they discovered was that Zurich employees didn’t find that furniture appropriate for a work setting. Osman says, “It was accepted in social hubs, but not in the formal work environment.” Kyung agreed, “Without conducting these pilots, we may have put that in, but that would have been dead space. It’s a trend in this industry, but we discovered it doesn’t work for us. In contrast, we discovered that the social hubs were much more utilized, so we invested more there.” These are all financially sound decisions we are able to make because we have this data.”
On Zurich Employee Satisfaction with the Pilot Workplace
Osman concluded: “We are proud that with 100% hit rates no one wanted to leave the pilot. This includes managers, various generations and distinctive departments. We thought managers leaving private offices would be our toughest critics, but unanimously no one wanted to go back. This process has allowed them to find the most efficient and effective ways to getting their jobs done every day.”