Employee Benefits Reset 2020: Insurance organisation Zurich UK’s employees adapted quickly to a flexible working pattern during Covid-19 (Coronavirus) due to its pre-existing flexible working policy.
In the second session at the Employee Benefits Reset online series; ‘Embrace flexible working’, Emma Francis, diversity and inclusion lead at Zurich UK explained how the significant shift to flexible working the organisation implemented in 2017, greatly helped the swift transition to remote working during the pandemic. Flexible working was introduced after feedback from the workforce revealed that the majority of employees within the organisation would prefer a flexible working pattern.
Francis said: “Through internal feedback employees were able to say how the traditional 9-5 working hours was impacting their careers due to their time commitments outside of work, and that adopting a flexible working style could make a significant difference.” Through pilots and continual feedback, Zurich UK was able to create a policy that fitted everyone’s needs. Consequently, when the working restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic were enforced on UK businesses, Zurich UK was in the best position possible to deal with this change.
Francis explained how flexible working at Zurich is not just about working from home, but is about offering employees the right level of support through benefits to ensure that they are being as productive and satisfied as possible. She also explained the best benefits of adopting a flexible working policy beyond restrictions of the pandemic, saying how it can increase productivity, creates more efficient use of office space, and reduces absenteeism. She said: “What we have seen is that when we empower and support our employees, we get that back in time dedication and commitment to the organisation from our workforce.”
Despite there being many barriers of adopting a flexible working pattern, such as having fewer networking opportunities, feeling isolated and not being around a team on a regular basis, Francis believes that these issues can all be overcome through a powerful company culture and the whole workforce wanting to make it work. She said: “There are no barriers in flexible working that can not be overcome in one way or the other. If employers are apprehensive on adopting this, pilots are a great way to get a pulse check on how effective a new policy can be.”
Francis also discussed how Zurich UK adjusted the way it advertised part-time and full-time roles to attract more women into senior roles through behavioural science changes in 2018. She said: “Since introducing the change, the average number of role views have doubled overall by showcasing that there are flexible part-time opportunities at the business for senior positions.” She also explained how job shares could be the key to the future in attracting those with senior experience not looking to work as many hours due to life responsibilities outside of work.
The session was concluded by Francis looking at how the business performed during the pandemic in terms of adapting to flexible working. The feedback overall was positive, with many employees wanting to adopt more of a flexible working policy in the future, which was the foundation that created Zurich’s new ‘where we work’ policy, giving all 4,500 employees full flexibility on how and where they work for as long as they are at the business.
Francis concluded the session by recommending organisations continue offering flexible working opportunities to employees post pandemic, while additionally explaining the positive takeaways that Zurich UK have learned while enabling employees to choose how they work now and in the future. She said: “We have taken on feedback from employees finding that they are happiest when they decide the time and location that they work. Through employees doing so, they have proven to be more productive and happier because of it.”