Romance at the workplace

Romance at the workplace

What is the most popular place to find a partner in Switzerland? No, its not a dating platform, it's the workplace. This is where Dan Schnider and Jasmin Burkhalter got to know each other. They talk about their experiences as a couple in the same company.

First, Kaya is hungry. Dad, Dan Schnider, takes the small cloth out of the pram with a practiced grip and drapes it over his partner Jasmin Burkhalter. Now she can discretely feed her three-month-old daughter. You can see it straight away: Dan and Jasmin are an experienced team. The adoration the pair have for their baby is palpable.

We have arranged an interview at the Zurich Switzerland cafeteria in Oerlikon. Here the couple recounts how they got to know one another – like so many others, at the workplace. Meanwhile, little Kaya lies in her rocker and looks around with wide eyes.

A kiss in Kaufleuten

"Coincidence brought us together," explains Dan Schnider. The 39-year-old marketing consultant works in the "Campaign & Project Management" team at Zurich Switzerland and supervises more than 40 general agents. Jasmin Burkhalter (38) currently works in the sister team "Sponsoring & Live Marketing" and organizes all kinds of events. But in 2015 she was working in a different area. So it was pure coincidence that at a general agent's summer party she ended up in a two-person team with Dan Schnider for a friendly Pétanque tournament. From then on, the pair would exchange a few words each time they met in the corridor or in the cafeteria. But it was only at the Christmas party that they spoke at greater length. 

Here they arranged to meet at the Christmas market on December 23. After this, they went to the Zurich insider club Kaufleuten, where Dan worked as a bouncer since his student days. "We kissed each other for the first time there on the balcony," Dan recalls. Six months later, Jasmin moved in with him.

"It's nice to share experiences"

Since then, each morning the couple have driven to work together from Berikon in Aargau to Zurich. Their workplaces are in neighboring open-plan offices, sometimes they even sit together. Work is often a topic of conversation at home, too. "People keep asking me if I find this tedious," explains Dan Schnider. "But it's extremely valuable. Jasmin understands me 100 percent, we give each other advice in challenging situations and help stop one another from reacting too emotionally." Jasmin Burkhalter adds, "It's wonderful that we can share our professional experiences with one another. I'm certain this has a positive impact for the company, too." In their leisure time the couple are often out and about together: Jasmin Burkhalter is a monster truck instructor and inspired Dan Schnider to have a go too. Aside from this, they are both passionate about sport. At the beginning of 2019 they embarked upon a 12-week carb-free diet – together, of course.

A native American name

The couple share equal responsibility for raising their child, which they have done from the beginning, "As a mother, I have a nine-month emotional head start, so it was important for me that the little one could be with Dan right after she was born, and that they had body contact for bonding," says Jasmin Burkhalter. Aside from this, she gave him the gift of choosing the child's name. It was important to Dan that it was a native American name, because he is a quarter Cheyenne-Indian. There were four names to choose from: "Three of them were very gentle and tender. Whereas I could see straight away that the little one radiated strength. So I chose the name Kaya, which means wise sister or adviser."

Dad gives the little one her first baby food

In Easter 2020 Jasmin Burkhalter will return to work in her team at 70 percent of full-time hours. Everything there currently revolves around the Ice Hockey World Championship, which is being held in Switzerland. Her partner is staying at home for six weeks, will give Kaya her first baby food and take care of the acclimatization period when she goes into daycare. Equal opportunities are a given for the couple. "And Zurich gives us the opportunity to live in accordance with our model of partnership," stresses Jasmin Burkhalter. She personally benefited from 20 weeks of parental leave. Dan is taking three and using an additional three weeks vacation he has saved the previous year. As of 2020, fathers at Zurich have even started to receive six week's parental leave, Dan Schnider enthuses, "I think it's great, because it allows you to build an entirely different kind of relationship with your child – and, for example, to really take care of your partner after a difficult birth." 

Well catered for as an unmarried couple

Jasmin Burkhalter also values the flexibility of Zurich as her employer, "I was able to choose when I would return to work and how many hours I would take on. That's a huge privilege." Zurich also supported the couple in making provisions for their future: "We wanted to make sure the little one would be taken care of, if something were to happen to either of us. It's because we aren't married that we took out extensive private cover – and we looked inhouse to Zurich for advice here. That was invaluable."

All of this is of no concern to the little Kaya. She continues to lie relaxed in her rocker, admired by passing work colleagues, the secret star of the cafeteria.

Generous arrangement for parental leave

"To attain greater equality in the workplace, and in society as a whole, we need to offer parents the choice of assuming the role of principal or secondary parent," says Jolanda Grob, Chief Human Resources Officer of Zurich Switzerland.

By focusing on the role of primary carer without taking gender into consideration, Zurich wants to make a global statement: The principal parent is thus eligible for up to 20 weeks of parental leave with fully salary. Naturally, this arrangement also applies to adoptive and same-sex parents. We have been granting our employees who assume the role of the secondary parent six weeks of parental leave with full salary since January 2020.

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