Zurich increases access to benefits to help employees manage busy lives


Insurance organisation Zurich has approximately 4,500 permanent staff in the UK. In the second half of 2017, internal research revealed a pressing need to upgrade its benefits programme.

Steve Collinson, UK head of HR at Zurich, explains: “Instead of us as an organisation deciding what to offer, we did a really detailed round of research with our people and asked them what they needed, and what would help them manage their lives in busy times.”

Using the survey findings in conjunction with external research, Zurich embarked on modernising its benefits offering to be suitable for all employees.

A key part of this process was the introduction of a virtual GP service, which Collinson describes as as a 24/7, always-on offering. “Employees can usually get appointments within two hours, most often either by phone or online meetings,” he adds. “It’s free for all employees and they can extend it to their families.”

Employee financial wellbeing has not been a core area of focus in the past, despite the organisation’s position in the financial services industry. To address this, access to personalised, online financial education, provided by Nudge, was also added.

Zurich additionally updated its employee assistance programme (EAP), integrating a digital offering with self-service capability.

Central to the overall upgrade was the launch of a new portal, Indigo, provided by Thomsons Online Benefits, which allows employees to manage their benefits more flexibly.

Collinson explains: “The previous offering was something employees could only access during work time and was based around the traditional HR system, so we looked to establish a consumer-grade experience.

“Employees told us that only being able to look at their benefit options during work actually limited what they were able to choose. They’d rather be able to sit with their family and discuss options.”

The new system and benefits offering went live in early November 2018, following a promotional campaign based around the tag-line ‘excuse us while we change’.

“People really like the flexibility to use the platform outside the office, and they love how easy it is to use,” Collinson says. “This is just the start. Now that the platform is up and running, adding more benefits is much easier. We’ll be doing another round in 2019 and asking employees what they would like next now they’re used to the new platform.”

The organisation’s focus on creating a listening culture reaches beyond gathering feedback about the direction of its benefits offering. Collinson explains that this outlook also permeates its approach to flexibility.

“It is important for employees to be able to actively use their voice and say [what will work for them],” he says. “We encourage parts of our organisation to take a team-based approach to flexible working.”

This communication also comes into play when ensuring that flexibility does not translate into heightened expectations, poor work-life balance and potential burnout.

“Whenever one of our teams embarks on a flexible working journey, we always give them guidance,” concludes Collinson. “It was important that people left the office at a reasonable time when they worked in a traditional model, so it shouldn’t be any different in a flexible model.”