Posted: 24 Nov. 2021 10 min. read

Creating a human-centric hybrid workplace

Effective hybrid strategy drives equity and connection


By Laura Shact, Dana Swanson Switzer, Sara Dick, Jordyn Schwartz, Karim Pradhan, Mackenzi Greene, and Laine Stern

In September 2021, Deloitte brought together executive leaders from 13 Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) companies for Part Four of the Future of the Workplace Crowdsourcing series to share their perspectives on how they are navigating equity in the hybrid environment. Through this session, we found:

  • Organizations are redefining the purpose of the physical workplace to support workplace equity and inclusion in a hybrid working model
  • To mitigate potential inequities in a hybrid environment, organizations need to accommodate the needs of different workforce segments through incentives that drive employees to the workplace
  • Organizations need to be intentional in how they leverage the workplace to create a fulfilling and equitable onboarding experience for new hires

Redefine the Purpose of Your Workplace

Over one year ago, employees were working from home and waiting for the day their company would announce an official return to office date. While everyone perceived the situation to be temporary, data on vaccinations and government COVID-19 mandates continued to persist. Even today, uncertainty continues to loom and organizations are not fully back to the office. 

The workplace is no longer a “one-size-fits-all” for the workforce. As a result, organizations need to flex their physical footprint to fulfill the diverse needs of their hybrid workforce. We found that organizations are thinking differently about space and who needs to be in the workplace.

In addition to developing new offices, high-growth giants like Google and Facebook are adding large amounts of real estate to their portfolio to create opportunities for innovative space usage and in-person employee experiences. These real estate decisions are not just for large organizations seeking to expand their physical footprint – all organizations need to be intentional about using their physical workplace as a lever to advance the workforce experience. People teams, or those responsible for creating workforce strategy, must partner with real estate functions to strategically plan for workplace developments.

Create Equitable Incentives and Experiences

While the new world of hybrid work offers the benefit of increased flexibility, it also presents unique challenges to equitable workforce experiences. “Equitable workforce experiences,” in this context, is defined as all people and types of workers having equal and fair access, opportunity, resources, and power to thrive. While historically equity has been considered in the context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), in the return-to-work context, the definition is expanded to consider different worker archetypes, including hybrid, virtual, and fully in-person workers. 

Despite DEI representatives having a seat at the table for workplace decisions, changes in workplace requirements (e.g., having to return to the office) may have disproportionately negative effects on specific segments of the workforce, such as caregivers. For example, 80% of the 1.1 million people who exited the workforce in September 2020 were women, as many were affected by the lack of childcare support when schools reopened with remote learning

If organizations want to retain women and other historically marginalized groups through the shift to hybrid work models, they need to offer targeted incentives to recognize and support their unique challenges. In today’s talent market, more companies are starting to offer competitive perks such as fertility benefits, which can be crucial to attracting and retaining women. In a labor market as competitive as the one we’re currently seeing, organizations really don’t have an option but to offer more incentives.

Organizations will also need to consider the employee experience across worker archetypes to ensure sustained equitable and fulfilling experiences, especially in the physical workplace. Harvard Business Review found in a recent study that the lack of close contact hinders the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose - three key ingredients in any effective working relationship. 

While driving connection is important for employees returning to the office, it is equally important that organizations ensure that the company culture is felt by remote employees. Accessible options, such as call-in options for meetings, virtual team-building events, and hybrid or virtual networking opportunities, need to be readily available and encouraged. As evolving environments continue to disrupt employee access to culture, organizations will need to maintain a focus on driving equitable and engaging experiences across all worker archetypes.

Don’t Forget Your New Hires

Cultural experiences and hybrid work models are primarily discussed in the context of the existing workforce, but there are important considerations for another group: new hires. 

Although candidates are attracted to jobs with some element of flexibility, new hires often feel disconnected to the organization when it comes to onboarding remotely. A new hire’s sense of belonging starts there, and organizations need a new plan to optimize what aspects of an onboarding experience are most effective in either a virtual context (e.g., formal training) or in-person context (e.g., meeting a new manager). What was acceptable during the pandemic will need to be reimagined to what is optimal as a go-forward approach.

To deliver an equitable onboarding experience, organizations should take a few important steps:

  1. Align leaders on workplace flexibility decisions that prioritize the employee experience. Since onboarding sets the stage for an employee’s workplace experience, leaders must be aligned on equitable new hire experiences as an organizational priority. Through leaders’ decisions, policies, and example-setting, they set the stage and prepare managers to drive equitable experiences for their workforce.
  2. Equip managers for the hybrid landscape. This is crucial because what happens within a team is often where equitable practices come to life. Managers should be committed to the visibility of their remote workers to foster connection opportunities and prioritize equity in performance development, promotion timelines, and community networking.
  3. Provide equal access to networks for all employees. Mentorship programs, community groups (ERGs), and onboarding “buddies” are incredibly helpful resources, especially for historically marginalized groups. In fact, 86% of respondent organizations agree that “on-the-job buddies” have been most effective to help new hires on board and build relationships with leaders, peers, and networks. These connection points are necessary to foster an accessible workplace culture – one to be shared by all employees as they adapt to the working norms of a hybrid model. “Buddies” should be introduced and encouraged in the onboarding process to extend the new hire network to those who need exposure and a deeper connection to the organization.

It’s not enough to create a workplace strategy – every organization needs to ensure it both incentivizes and supports equal and fair access, opportunities, and resources for all employees regardless of their flexibility model. By being intentional and including aligned leaders, trained managers, and connected employees, organizations can ensure remote and in-person workers have access to the same opportunities and feel connected to the organization. As we see more offices open, one question remains on the minds of Technology, Media, and Telecommunications executives, what will be the purpose of the office of the future?


  1. Laura Shact is a Principal in Deloitte's Human Capital Consulting practice with over 16 years of consulting experience helping companies align talent strategy to the Future of Work.
  2. Dana Swanson Switzer is a Principal in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, helping digital companies maintain their competitive advantage at scale via the power of the workforce.
  3. Sara Dick is a Consultant in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, supporting Future of Work for Workforce Transformation.
  4. Jordyn Schwartz is a Business Analyst in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, with experience in change management, leadership development, workforce strategies, and diversity and inclusion.
  5. Karim Pradhan is a Consultant in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, with experience in workforce strategies, change management, and diversity and inclusion.
  6. Mackenzi Greene is an Analyst in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, with experience in change management, talent strategy, and diversity and inclusion.
  7. Laine Stern is a Business Analyst in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, with experience in workforce strategies, talent strategy, and change management.


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