Posted: 19 Feb. 2021 9 min. read

The Evolution of the Virtual Workplace – What’s Your Plan?

Preparing for Post-Pandemic Realities

It’s 2021 and nothing’s changed—what’s your plan?

Five months ago, we brought together leaders in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) industry for our first virtual crowdsourcing session on the ongoing realities of the virtual workplace. In pursuit of learning from one another, we reconvened leaders across 10 TMT companies for a second time to share their real-time perspectives on workplace strategy, virtual collaboration, and workforce reskilling. We found:

  • Organizations were not as ready as they thought for the virtual workplace
  • Organizations should redefine their use of collaboration tools to pioneer a new way of working
  • Managers were unprepared to support the culture of the team and the overall organization

We share these findings so that organizations may consider workplace strategies that not only allow their workforce to be effective during the pandemic but ignite a long-term competitive edge.

Beyond the real estate footprint: Work isn’t the same—is your organization stuck?

While organizations may understand the trends of the virtual/hybrid workplace, the unpredictability of the world has made it an even greater challenge to plan for the post-pandemic reality.

Even while companies plan to stay remote, organizations are realizing they may not have been ready for the virtual workplace as they thought they were, with activities such as organic collaboration, innovation, strategy sessions, and relationship building remaining a challenge. For example, 20% of organizations cited nothing new is being done to integrate new hires into the company. In fact, one leader noted, “onboarding new people remotely is a challenge, so (we need to) find ways to engage and make them feel included using collaboration (tools).” Operating successfully in a virtual environment means moving beyond short-term fixes to create an intentional strategy for the physical workplace for 2021 and beyond, as an article by Forbes states “It’s impossible to onboard a new hire virtually using an in-person methodology.” Workplace strategies must include integrating and connecting new hires as early as possible regardless of office-based, hybrid, and or a completely remote environment.  

Certain activities and job functions can flex more easily in a remote environment (e.g., Sales & Marketing, IT, and Dev Ops), while others (R&D, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and executive-level roles) may be more effective in-person. How do organizations account for productivity differences while accommodating employee choice?

Beyond having the right collaboration tools: If not a tool problem, then what is it?        

Organizations have found a way to shift their work to remote, but almost one year in, the struggle to truly “virtualize” collaboration persists as companies struggle to effectively maximize their remote tools. Rather than using collaboration tools to replace in-person meetings, organizations need to envision a truly virtual experience with a technology road map that defines how they want to work in the future.

Even if organizations have the infrastructure to support remote working, the actual design of the work itself and how tools will support has not caught up. Teams must make a conscious effort to use their time together for activities that promote collaboration, such as whiteboarding and brainstorming. 

Organizations have an opportunity to take advantage of this pandemic-induced, remote environment to pioneer a new way of working and delivering customer service. Automation, new workforce arrangements, and workflows are examples of levers to break out of our orthodoxies of working. Consider the ability to solve customer problems before human intervention is even needed. For example, imagine a system that can synthesize product feedback from online communities, customer portals, reviews, etc., automatically detecting a customer complaint before it happens and push out a product update. 

Beyond managing people and work: Are you leaving managers unprepared?

Even as organizations make efforts to support work-life balance and facilitate meaningful work relationships, such as well-being events and virtual happy hours, employees are feeling less connected to their peers and organization while remote.  

Now more than ever, this responsibility has fallen on the manager to bring a sense of community and belonging to each team member and drive and sustain culture. When asked what organizations are looking for in a manager, one leader cited: “Keeping people motivated, employee burnout is a real risk,” while another stated “inspiring and staying connected with the teams within a virtual environment.” Yet, managers are not prepared to suddenly support the culture of their team and the overall organization. 

Because organizations are relying on their people managers to create these human experiences for their teams, they have become the backbone of the virtual organization, with 89% of companies relying on 1:1 check-ins with managers to build meaningful relationships with employees. Not surprisingly, due to this shift of responsibility, emotional intelligence, inclusiveness, and social flexibility was cited as the top three capabilities and skills that organizations need from managers.

Stay in touch! Sign up for TMT Remote Work Crowdsourcing Session #3

Throughout the next year, we will continue to host virtual crowdsourcing sessions with leaders in the TMT industry to share insights that help your organizations develop strategies as the environment evolves. If you are an executive interested in participating in this research, sign up here. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out our recent podcast, “Creating Workforce Resilience in tech, media, and telecom” and explore our COVID-19 resources for TMT leaders


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.

Laura Shact is a Senior Manager in Deloitte's Human Capital Consulting practice with over 15 years of consulting experience helping companies align talent strategy to the Future of Work.

Christine Nguyen is a Senior Consultant in Deloitte's Organization Transformation practice, focusing on organizational strategies, workforce strategies, and change management.

Sara Dick is a Consultant in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, supporting Future of Work for Workforce Transformation.

Jordyn Schwartz is a Business Analyst in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, with experience in change management, leadership development, Future of Work, and diversity and inclusion.

Karim Pradhan is a Business Analyst in Deloitte's Human Capital practice, with experience in workforce strategies, change management, and diversity and inclusion.

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Dana Swanson Switzer

Dana Swanson Switzer

Principal | Human Capital

Dana is a principal in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, helping digital companies maintain their competitive advantage at scale via the power of the workforce. With a focus on organizational development and talent and workforce strategies, Dana partners with senior business leaders at global companies to design, and rollout Future of Work strategies as they redefine their value proposition to the business and take advantage of technology and people disruptions in the market to differentiate in the industry.