Posted: 30 Apr. 2020 5 min. read

Virtual ways of working: Response to crisis or an opportunity we’ve been expecting

Over the last month, the world has been going through unprecedented change. Fuelled by macroeconomic factors driven by a global pandemic, evolving customer demand, and an explosion in everyone adopting new technology quickly, organisations have been plunged into a period of uncertainty. Businesses are now grappling with how to continue to remain productive and operational utilising virtual ways of working.

Virtual ways of working, often called remote working or even working from home, is not a new concept. Some have already been regularly working from home for a day a week – a staple for many software developers or working parents. However, many Australians are experiencing for the first time virtual working for their entire working week and for extended periods of time. With the added complexities of managing family in the home, i.e., parents with young children, or people working interstate or internationally, the end result is that some people and businesses are struggling.

There is a choice to make. Do businesses see their virtual workforce as a mitigation strategy to the current pandemic or an opportunity to be harnessed?

Responding to Crisis with Virtual High Performing Teams 

Organisations are being forced to immediately act both tactically and strategically to respond on an almost daily basis, to the changes that COVID-19 is throwing at them. High performing teams that are cross functional, autonomous, supported and well-resourced can respond quickly to high priority work effectively. High performing teams are the cornerstone for a well-functioning enterprise. It is important that teams understand why they do what they do, are trusted and enabled to get their work done, and supported by leadership through strong pastoral care and the communication of priorities. High performing teams established in this way provide a number of benefits.

Responding in these uncertain times requires an iterative mindset that embraces the current environment as an opportunity to test, learn, and evolve. More obviously, how does an organisation move from the current grouping of their people to high performing teams, while setting them up for success?

In this multi part series, we will be taking a look at three fundamental building blocks for creating a network of virtual high performing teams:

  1. Establishing connectivity –  Creating a safe, virtual environment for teams to work remotely
  2. Enable team to delivery outcomes – Optimising team and leadership performance through the removal of delivery challenges 
  3. Setting up the portfolio to make informed decisions – Creating the right environment to make iterative, informed decisions on where the organisation invests its time, money and talent.

Let’s start with the basics, establishing connectivity.

Establishing connectivity

An immediate question that your business has needed to answer is how can I set-up my workforce to work from home? Our current workplace has changed from physical to completely virtual. What portion of my workforce has experience working virtually before? Results from a recent survey of a sample set of professional services staff within Deloitte showed that prior to the physical distancing requirements of COVID-19, 77% of employees regularly worked virtually for at least 1 day. In addition, 63% of those surveyed said that they desired to work virtually for 2-3 days a week.

With learnings available from those who already work from home and a desire to embrace the virtual workplace, this is a good basis to get started. Successful teams require certain things to be true and there are some pre-requisites that need to be met before the question of performance can be considered. 

A virtual workplace

Employees need a virtual workplace that enables them to do their jobs, feel connected, and offer them the tools to innovate, integrate and thrive. For example, connecting via video when you are working remotely and needing to build and maintain trust with your team members is paramount. As humans, we are social creatures that need interaction – even the introverts! Facilitating this ‘almost in person’ experience through face-to-face on video allows for more effective collaboration and delivery of outcomes. 

There are a few immediate next steps that organisations can do to support their people in this transition.

Strategy

  • Define a clear virtual office strategy outlining strategic objectives, and value created.

People

  • Support activity-based working in the home to ensure people’s mental and physical well-being is guided to create the right environment for working.
  • Use the right channels to provide clear and simple advice to your teams and provide comfort.

Community & Wellness

  • Encourage people to maintain existing and develop new connections within the virtual office.
  • Foster a culture promoting individual and group well-being.

Processes

  • Articulate digital etiquette for the how to of virtual meetings.
  • Review procedures and protocols to ensure red tape is not stopping employees from delivering value to customers.

Workplace

  • Enable bring your own device (BYOD) integration utilising the equipment already in people’s homes.
  • Guide employees in creating an ergonomic work point.

Technology & Tools

  • Ensure teams have the right equipment by developing a technology library using existing workplace equipment.
  • Identify infrastructure upgrades to support VPN access when needed and enough bandwidth on your chosen collaboration tools to support video.

It is important for teams to be supported with a virtual office where they can work, communicate and thrive. With these pre-requisites in place, teams need to consider their roles, interactions and dependencies, ways of working (processes and guidelines), available tools and systems and ultimately their purpose for existence. Understanding why a team exists and what their overall goal is supports their ability to prioritise and execute valuable work. 

In the next part of this series, we will explore making virtual teams productive through solving delivery challenges, prioritisation, and optimising ways of working.

Author : Peter Huguenin

Meet our authors

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Partner, Consulting

Robbie leads the Apple alliance relationship for Deloitte nationally, and is an Experience Design Partner in the Consulting practice, based in Sydney. He is also Deloitte’s Virtual Office Managing Partner. Robbie has a passion for fusing human-centred design and business to facilitate transformation programs with clients. With 22 years’ experience, he has worked on multiple global design projects, combining service design with spatial and digital strategies to create omni channel solutions. A key differentiator for Robbie and his team is to bring customers and employees into the heart of the design process to help rapidly prototype ideas and ensure that the successful ideas turn into robust, financially successful concepts. Robbie has worked across many industry sectors with a keen focus in financial services, telco, automotive and retail. Robbie is also the national leader for Deloitte’s LGBTI Network ‘GLOBE’ in Australia. He sits on the Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Council for Deloitte, as well as the advisory board for ACON and is a board member for Wear It Purple. As Deloitte’s most senior ‘Out role model’ Robbie strongly believes that all our people should be able to bring their whole self to work every day, advocating for a more inclusive workplace for all our people.

Maria Muir

Maria Muir

Partner, Consulting

Maria is the Lead Enterprise Agility Partner in Deloitte’s Consulting Practice in Asia-Pacific. Maria has worked with a wide variety of teams, leaders, and organisations to re-wire their management philosophy and enable the shift in thinking required for her clients across Asia-Pacific to deliver projects better, with more value, sooner, safer and happier. She has been working with her clients to create customer-centric, high performance delivery, and learning ecosystems across industries, particularly with extensive experience in financial services, telecommunications, and energy & resources. Based on her technology delivery background, Maria’s approach to change and leveraging new ways of working is pragmatic and has an effective balance between delivery and an outcome focussed mindset and culture.

Peter Huguenin

Peter Huguenin

Manager, Consulting

Peter is an experienced Agile practitioner specialising in delivery, strategy and transformation. His focus is enterprise agility, end to end delivery and lean portfolio management. He has a deep interest and understanding of agility in finance, telecommunications and higher education.