Employee experience – digitally in touch with tomorrow

What digital technology will we be working with in our new offices in Swiss Re Next (SRN)? Which of the devices we use today will stay with us? Which won't? And what new marvels are there for us to look forward to? We asked Stefan Sieger, Head of Customer Experience and Digital Delivery.

Stefan Sieger, Head of Customer Experience and Digital Delivery

Can you give us an idea of the IT we'll have available to us in the various workspace options in SRN?

Simply put, our digital workplace should ensure that our people can communicate and collaborate anywhere, any time and in the most productive manner possible. It's all about the employee experience, really. This also means standardising worldwide the IT components we need for this experience, to make sure they are available anytime and anywhere.

In SRN, the IT standard is for every employee to have a docking station, a monitor, a headset, a keyboard and a mouse. Already, more than 80% of us work on a laptop. We will no longer have desk phones, now that we're making calls from our laptop or desktop computers and our mobile phones, all of which give us much more flexibility.

There has been a clear trend to juggle multiple devices, a reality already for each and every one of us in our daily work routines. So, in the SRN building, the focus is on allowing everyone to use three devices in wireless mode at any given time and to be connected automatically anywhere, anytime. Which will be optional, of course.

What’s the word on desktop PCs?

In theory, having desktops runs counter to the agile working set-up, that is, the flexible workplace we'll have in the SRN building. In practice, though, we're still going to have users who need a desktop PC for their work and who would be poorly served by a laptop. They tend to be employees who work with large Excel spreadsheets, for example, or traders who use multiple monitors. These folks may not get as much use out of the many different workspace offerings as the rest of us will.

As a rule, we don't tell our colleagues how to use their digital workspace. Our goal is to make sure we provide a sufficiently broad range of quality basic components for people to freely mix and match to suit their work needs. In that sense, we see our role as enablers of the agile working concept.

What was the greatest challenge for IT with SRN?

When we kicked off our planning for SRN, in 2013, we didn't know what our hardware and software needs would be in 2017. So we focused on our basic specifications for devices, solutions and the infrastructure. "Easy to connect” was one of those specs, along with "mobility", "productivity" and so on. Based on all that, we then shopped around for new models as they hit the market.

What is the trend?

Within the next two to three years, we're going to see vastly more employees use only mobile devices. In IT trends, it's not so much the hardware that's a limiting factor for us as it is how devices are used and how their software was developed. Take access to certain business applications, for instance. Most of the business applications we use today were developed with PC users in mind. But what if there are more and more users who only travel with an iPad and don't bother taking their laptop? So our focus is on making sure that business applications are compatible with all devices.

Is there something in the new SRN building you look forward to, in particular?

With SRN, we're not just putting up a new building and putting in state-of-the-art technology. SRN also ushers in a new way of working at our Zurich location, one that's all about integrating technology, workspaces and employees. What I'm saying is, this is about more than just the digital workplace or the wide range of workspace options. Again, it's about the employee experience and how best to support it through digital technology. For me, the biggest excitement will be the many more possibilities I see opening up for us with the integration of our new way of working, the new building, the new technology and, perhaps most of all, the new mind-set.

Where do we go from here?

Mobile devices are sure to play an ever more central role as we go forward. If you think about how smartphones have been around for the past ten years or so, and how fundamentally they've changed how we interact and what we use phones for, it's no big stretch to see that we've only just started down our road to digital transformation. Today, everything must be mobile first.

Part of our vision is having workspaces that recognise their users. For you, this would mean going to your workspace with your device – say, an iPhone – and having your workspace identify you and adjust its settings to match your profile, register you, dim the lighting up or down as needed, and so on. All this could be done via a digital assistant, an evolution of Siri, if you will.

We'll be seeing a massive quantum leap in technology with the next construction project we have in the works for Zurich, the replacement for the building at Mythenquai 20-28. There's lots of excitement ahead for us!