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The teleconference software chimes and Jenna* has joined the meeting. (*Jenna, a completely fictional person.)
“Hey Jenna, are you there?”
Jenna’s webcam comes on and I can see she’s speaking but I can’t hear a thing.
“Hey Jenna! I can see you – but I can’t hear you”
Jenna’s face looks confused and she starts moving her mouse.
Can you hear me? She types in the instant messenger window.
“No, I think you’re on mute.”
“-Sorry I was on mute,” Jenna’s voice cuts through loudly as I rush to pull down the volume on the chat.
“Sorry!” Jenna says “The joys of technology…”
To any person who’s ever attended a conference call in their working life – the above scenario probably seems pretty familiar. In fact I suspect as you read, a rueful smile spread across your face as you remembered a call where either you were Jenna, or perhaps the helpless bystander on the other end of the call.
And it’s not just the darn mute switch (which – can I be honest – why isn’t it just a big flashing button to make it easy to locate and toggle on/off?) There are a whole host of challenges that today’s worker faces when working remotely or working with colleagues who are in another location.
There’s that weird echo thing. Or the awkward silence after a call out for questions where people (wanting to be polite) wait to allow someone else to jump in. But then – because everyone hates awkward silences, suddenly there’s three people chiming in over each other. And what’s a conference call without a crying baby or strangely meowing cat from the colleague who is working from home?
The Virtual Office is a new initiative by Deloitte, led by our recently appointed Virtual Office Managing Partner, Robbie Robertson – under the stewardship of Chief Strategy Officer, Rob Hillard.
So what makes Virtual Office unique?
Ever since there’s been laptops and mobile phones, employees have been working ‘remotely’ in some way or form. Things have come a long way since the 90s, when mobile phones and laptops started to become more widespread in their use.
However, remote work practices in workplaces have often been technology led. By this I mean, a new technology hits the marketplace, early adopters take it up and businesses would soon follow.
But where is the person in all of this? Have employers considered the unique requirements and barriers that their employees face, before putting in place a new technology solution? Does the technology solution fully address the requirement, or only partially? Is there a better solution?
Maybe this wasn’t such an issue twenty or even ten years ago. However, the exponential growth in technology, particularly apps and programs designed to make digital collaboration simpler, faster and more accessible – has meant that organisations now sometimes have dozens of technology solutions in place – but also, a workforce that largely can’t distinguish between tools (what’s the difference between MS Teams and Office 365 anyway?) and when they should use one over another.
Putting our people at the centre of everything
In order to achieve our vision of undisputed leadership, we need to empower our people to make an impact any where, in any way, at any time.
The Virtual Office have taken a human centred design approach to create an ecosystem of people, technology and places that allows our people to bring their best self – regardless of what device they’re using, where they might be or what time of day it is. Anyone who has ever smashed out emails in an airport lounge whilst enjoying a crisp pinot grigio knows the inherent truth: we need to be able to maximise our productivity, particularly during moments that were previously ‘dead air’.
To be clear, this is absolutely not about making our people “connected in” to work every minute of the day. But rather, to allow seamless connection into Deloitte systems with as little friction as possible.
On any given day, almost half of our people conduct work from a place that is not a Deloitte office. What we also learned from our Virtual Office employee study, is that staff who work primarily offsite usually have a poorer experience compared with those based in the office. VPN connectivity issues, access to files, being forgotten on team calls – the list goes on.
Over the coming weeks and months – we’ll be sharing a lot more about the Virtual Office – we’ve got some pretty big plans! The Virtual Office has the potential to completely revolutionise the way we work, how interact with each other and our clients, and it also ensures our people have more say in where and how they work – which provides huge gains from a wellbeing perspective.
This blog will feature a range of topics in coming months – from team members who are living the dream working from remote areas, to technology hacks/explainers, as well as case studies of other orgs who are doing cool things in this space.
If you want to learn more about the Virtual Office, stay tuned for our next blog!
Until next time, happy virtual working!
Adrian is a Manager at Deloitte Digital in Australia. He is passionate about strategic communication, employee engagement and the role D&I plays in this space. Outside of work he is an avid writer and pop-culture connoisseur. You can usually catch him watching reruns of the Simpsons or Gossip Girl.