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WfA Blog 2: Digital workplace
The pandemic provided a glimpse into the incredible opportunities of the future of work. Prior to the disruptive overnight shift to remote work, many organizations were only beginning to reinvent their workplaces and re-architect how and where work gets done to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce. As the pandemic subsides, there is now a much more urgent call to action to reimagine the Digital Workplace to truly unlock business value in the new era of the hybrid workforce. At Deloitte, we have seen a massive upswing in clients seeking guidance on how to evolve their Digital Workplace to architect, enable, and operationalize Work from Anywhere.
The rise of the hybrid worker is a catalyst for re-architecting the Digital Workplace.
The pandemic spurred a global shift to remote work, which in turn required urgent triage of the Digital Workplace to enable business continuity. Organizations reacted to the crisis, and quickly—and in many cases heroically—bolted on technology solutions to “stop the bleeding” and sustain productivity and business continuity. Now that stop-gap solutions are in place, enterprises should begin to think holistically about their future Digital Workplace strategy.
Although pandemic-related restrictions are slowly being lifted, remote work is not going away. The majority of the workforce does not want to return to 100% in-office work, and neither do most employers. In fact, 68 percent of the nearly 300 executives interviewed as part of Deloitte’s April 2021 Return to Workplaces survey reported that they intend for their corporate workforce to operate in a hybrid model.1
Employees, too, have become accustomed to more flexible work arrangements, and many are demanding that these continue post-pandemic. More than half (54 percent) of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their jobs post-COVID-19 pandemic if they are not given some form of flexibility in where and when they work.2 Furthermore, many enterprises have seen an increase in worker productivity as workers spend time previously used for commuting and travel on productive work and on well-being activities that in turn promote productivity.
The hybrid, work-from-anywhere workforce is here for the foreseeable future, and organizations that do not embrace it could experience significant retention, engagement, and talent acquisition challenges.
Preparing for the post-pandemic future of work means more than just supporting a remote workforce. The Digital Workplace must now be re-architected to support a hybrid workforce as well, composed of on-site employees, remote employees, and those who might work from anywhere depending on their needs and schedule. Digital Workplaces must be redesigned to operate in synchrony and connect all workers to what they need, when they need it, and who they need to work with, regardless of location, device, and time zone.
To operationalize Work from Anywhere, organizations should focus their efforts in two ways:
1. Business outcomes, not technical solutions. A multitude of software solutions to accommodate the new hybrid workforce are at the ready in a crowded, growing marketplace. In this emerging multibillion-dollar industry, platform giants battle it out to “own” end-to-end Digital Workplace solutions while start-up innovators are eager to fill overlooked niche capabilities. But to best operationalize the hybrid workforce, we need to think beyond piecemeal technical solutions.
In 2020, we were solving for remote work and implementing collaboration and productivity tools out of urgency. In 2021 and beyond, we should more strategically build the next-generation Digital Workplace ecosystem through the lens of business outcomes. Without an outcome focus, organizations risk simply bolting on technologies without truly delivering intentional, meaningful, and measurable business results. Business outcomes will vary by organization, but some examples include:
2. Human-Centered Design
The Digital Workplaces of the recent past were simply not built to be the primary workplace or primary workforce experience…until the pandemic. Now, Digital Workplaces must serve not only as of the primary workplace for remote workers but also effectively and productively serve hybrid and on-site workers at the same time.
As options for where, when, and how to get work done have transformed, how we approach, select, design, and deploy the Digital Workplace for the workforce must transform alongside. Today’s workers want an online work experience akin to the digital interactions in their personal lives – always-on, on-demand, social, and comprehensive. This past years’ experience is rich with data to evaluate what the workforce needed, what they used, how they connected, what the pain points were, and what helped them feel productive, empowered, and connected in their day-to-day work. It also highlighted the disparity of inclusion and equity for remote workers pre-pandemic—a significant challenge that organizations must meaningfully address as we look forward. This data and reflection must inform the evolution of the Digital Workplace ecosystem. And we must keep listening and reflecting.
Human-Centered Design must be employed to truly elevate the Digital Experience of the workforce. The Digital Workplace should enhance the experience of the work we do; connect people and teams; infuse well-being into every day; and elevate organizational essentials, such as values, purpose, culture, and behaviors.
By prioritizing workforce experience in re-architecting the Digital Workplace ecosystem, companies can benefit from the productivity gains and innovations that result from a more empowered, included, capable, and engaged workforce.
Getting started: What to ask, What to do
Organizations need answers now on what capabilities and solutions they need to enable the hybrid workforce. There has certainly been an impressive explosion of platforms over the past year that can be layered in and bolted on top of existing Digital Workplace ecosystem solutions. Yet, for questions surrounding what to implement, there is no “right” technical solution without an underlying strategy that first considers:
1. What are the business outcomes you are trying to achieve?
2. What are the experiences you want to deliver and to whom?
3. What specific capabilities do you need to enable those outcomes and experiences?
To create a sustainable Digital Workplace solution, it is critical that organizations:
One final note: We must all think big when defining our Digital Workplace North Star visions. Accommodating Work from Anywhere should be table stakes, but thinking ambitiously and exploring moonshot ideas will result in innovations that could make a significant impact on how our people and our organizations thrive in the post-pandemic hybrid workforce era.
John is Deloitte’s Digital Workplace offering leader, is the founder and former leader of Deloitte’s Digital HR Strategy and Solutions offering and is the chief strategy officer of the HR Transformation offering. He has been helping clients transform their business for more than 20 years at the intersect of people and technology.