When millions of people across the UK made the abrupt shift to home working last year, it showed us that one size definitely doesn’t fit all. So it’s time to rethink the workplace.
For some, ditching the commute has made life easier. For others, who may live in shared accommodation or thrive on the social experience of work and learn through observation, adjusting to a new way of working has been more difficult.
For Deloitte and for our clients, the future of work isn’t about flexible hours in a traditional sense or saying goodbye to the office for good. It’s about choice. And as a firm, we’re trusting our people to make some important decisions.
But what does the future look like? Space-age, floating work pods? Unlikely. Avatars instead of colleagues? Not entirely. A lot like it is now but better and more inclusive? Hopefully.
The impact of the pandemic has profoundly changed our way of life, not least in the way we work. It has also shown that we can trust our people to make the right choice in when, how and where they work.
Senior Partner and Chief Executive, Deloitte UK
The freedom to choose
During the summer, we announced that, once lockdown restrictions were lifted, we would let our 22,000 UK people decide for themselves when, where and how they work. No specific locations, we’re trusting our colleagues to do what’s right for their own circumstances and wellbeing, for our clients and our firm.
A recent employee survey highlighted the importance of autonomy – 96 per cent of our people said they wanted to be able to choose. 81 per cent anticipated working at a Deloitte office for up to two days a week.
For 86 per cent, ‘collaborating with team colleagues’ and ‘interacting with others’ were among the top three ways they envisaged using the office in the future.
Our tech journey has been one of discovery. Take virtual reality (and this is where avatars do come in) – it started out small-scale at Deloitte but is now featuring in our training, colleague collaboration and in our recruitment and onboarding.
Deloitte Digital’s chief disruptor, Ed Greig, explains: “Over the past year, it has provided a change of environment for teams working together, to inspire new ways of thinking, while relieving traditional video conferencing fatigue.”
And because users can visit a virtual office with avatars, it offers one thing many of us are missing – the ‘collision coefficient.’
“It does allow you to bump into colleagues in a way you can't do in organised video conferencing," Ed continues, “and have casual conversations that can often spark new ideas."
We’ve helped our clients to embrace the tech too, opening up new ways for them to interact with their employees and customers. To scale solutions and make it more inclusive, we’re now exploring how it can be used without the expense of headsets.
Watch this space...
So, what will the office of the future look and feel like? Maybe not the stuff of science fiction, but spaces will be used in new ways and revolve around collaboration, learning and celebration.
And as well as being more inclusive and convenient, less travel will make the new world greener. Our own plans will be closely linked to our wider sustainability goals and WorldClimate commitments.
“Businesses are thinking hard about how the design of their work, workforce and workplaces needs to change,” says Will Gosling, Deloitte’s UK human capital and future of work lead.
“I think it will be critical that they find new ways to seamlessly blend the physical and digital while also accelerating the design of office space to actually enable new ways of collaborating, learning and socializing and to encourage people and customers to come together.”
And there are no signs that working in a different way will put the brakes on progress. Not if we keep evolving.
“The way we’re working now feels progressive,” continues Will, “but I’m sure it will rapidly transform as we continue to innovate in how work is done, learn from the experimentation of others and as new collaboration technology quickly comes into view.”
Early adopters are places where the CEO has said, ‘we have to talk to one another in a different way because we’re all human beings’.
Joining forces to support the frontline
To reimagine the future, we need to consider everyone’s experience. For our clients’ employees who aren’t desk-based and are located across different sites, such as retail or factory workers, field engineers or salespeople, feeling connected can be a challenge.
For this reason, we’ve teamed up with Facebook to make work better for people, and people better at work. While we’ve worked collaboratively for a number of years, in July 2020 we went Facebook official: forming an alliance with Workplace from Facebook.
Workplace from Facebook offers a communication and engagement solution that connects everyone in a company. Familiar and easy to use, the platform gives users instant access to company systems, and each other, via a mobile device.
“Frontline workers are arguably the people who technology has left behind,” says Rupert Darbyshire, a partner in our future of work team. “If you can help them to talk to the team, connect with what is going on in the company and with customers, sort basic tasks such as shifting rotas and recognise good work across the whole company all in one place - what a brilliant step up from a noticeboard in the canteen.”
Our alliance with Workplace from Facebook was created to support these experiences before the pandemic – but now its potential for our clients is more evident, and there’s increasing excitement among forward-thinking leaders.
Rupert explains: “Early adopters are places where the CEO has said, ‘we have to talk to one another in a different way because we’re all human beings’. It’s these businesses that have created great experiences for their employees that have reaped the benefits of more engaged and productive teams.”
Remote working: a year on
Twelve months after lockdown started, Deloitte research showed more than one in five UK workers – 7.5 million people – were keen to work from home all, or almost all, of the time once restrictions were lifted.
Technology has been the great enabler. During the first three months of the pandemic, 75 per cent of office workers said they had used at least two new types of tech for work.
40 per cent of those working remotely felt they performed best at home while just 21 per cent said they were better at their usual workplace.
But the pandemic hasn’t been experienced equally. 44 per cent said they found working from home a challenge – a sentiment echoed by 58 per cent of under 35s.
Lizzie Tantam, PR manager
+44 207 007 2911 | Email Lizzie