Today’s guest post comes to us from Markus Marksteiner, Head of Infrastructure and Support at Baloise Group.

In 2016, Baloise Group made the decision to recreate its workspace in a way that not only looked different physically within the building, but also created an entirely flexible way of working for employees.

The days when you would move into an office and stay there for years with the same people, the same furniture, and the same setup are gone. This is not the way the future works.

By 2020, two new office buildings at our headquarters in Basel will be completed. So, I formed a workgroup called “Working 2020,” in which representatives from Communications, Logistics, Human Resources, Change Management, and our workers’ council are imagining the future of work at Baloise. And Citrix solutions are helping us make that imagination a reality.

The flexible design of our new offices enables new levels of productivity, through the addition of more team spaces, collaborative spaces, and stand-up areas. Business units are no longer confined to one level because as people’s needs change on a day-to-day basis. As teams move around the office from project to project, the tables, panels, and workspace equipment have to be able to move with them. This approach isn’t just great for our employees, either. It allows Baloise Group to attract millennials, tech-savvy workers, and other top talent to the traditional insurance industry, which often struggles with this.

Through this digital transformation process, I’ve learned one big thing: change management is the key to success. To accommodate the varied and ever-evolving needs of their workforce, we actively involve employees from all levels of the organization in the workplace planning and design process. Human resources and change management teams are heavily involved in workplace changes to ensure that every employee has the flexibility and freedom to choose where and how they want to work.

As a result of employee involvement, the IT team at Baloise have learned that the physical environment is only one component of enabling true flexibility. We realized that traditional department silos were hindering productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction. Therefore, our Datacenter Services department threw out the old way and implemented a new model based on three self-organized team types: Customer Teams, the Operations Team, and the Development Team.

The Customer Teams, which include engineers and operations professionals, are grouped together based on the services they have to support and fulfill to their customers. Each Customer Team has a single coordinator who plans and prioritizes each task that has to be done within the team in a purely administrative role. This structure streamlines workflows so that the customers get the right tasks at the right time.

The Operations Team, which is also comprised of various engineers, is responsible for running the services that are already in production. They keep the system up and running, keep the system live, address the alerts out of the different monitoring systems, and fulfill the service agreement level.

Lastly, the Development Team, which is made up of specialists and architects, is tasked with bringing the data center into the next generation. They discover and bring in new technologies, create proofs of concept, and implement them within the company. The Development Team is essentially the core of innovation.

These new structures freed up the Operations Team to focus on incidents, proactive maintenance, standardization, and automation, which was not always possible in the past due to resourcing constraints. As a result, the quantity of Priority 1 incidents has fallen by 50 percent over the past year.

Additionally, the structure of the Customer Teams has given the customers an incredible new level of transparency into the status of each task and project being completed for them. They can assess the progress of each item against the due date, re-prioritize tasks as needs, change and steer the engineering teams. The feedback from the customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

These self-organized teams revolutionize how work gets done, but true flexibility shines through at Baloise Group in our ability to support remote work from anywhere and on any device. The consistency of collaboration, despite any employee’s physical location on any given day, has reduced the need for travel and travel-related costs. Support for remote work has also drastically cut down the amount of sick time employees take, since they can work from home as they recuperate. Most importantly, flexibility has contributed to a boost in productivity. A recent survey Citrix conducted with Wakefield Research revealed that half (50%) of office professionals who work in a flexible work environment note is has increased productivity.

Baloise Group recognizes the value of offering a flexible schedule and work-life balance to employees while ensuring remote workers can collaborate with their teams just as seamlessly as they can at the office.

Baloise Group isn’t alone in realizing the importance of a flexible strategy. According to the results from a recent survey conducted for Citrix by Wakefield Research, the vast majority (87%) of office professionals whose company has a flexible work environment report their company has experienced positive outcomes from the model. Top positive outcomes from having flexible work environments include increased employee morale (51%), increased employee productivity (50%), reduced employee turnover (35%), and attracting more talented job candidates (34%).

We are already applying all the digital transformation and flexibility lessons we’ve learned into the design and build of its upcoming 2020 workplace environment. That means communicating with and involving employees from the bottom up instead of top down. By starting with asking our people, from managers down to employees, “How do you see your workspace in the future? What is your goal?” we have created an environment that appeals to employees company wide.

Our vision for 2020 is to enable the future of work – an environment that combines all the elements of physical design considerations, technical infrastructure capabilities, and behavioral changes to accommodate and adapt to how people want to work in the years to come.