The good news is that only 6% of our surveyed organizations are satisfied with the status quo and say they have not changed—and will not change—their workplace strategy. Meanwhile, 78% are trying to create a future workplace where workers can thrive by redesigning their existing business processes or reimagining the work itself.
The new fundamentals
Let the work drive the workplace decisions. Before organizations can effectively answer any questions about where people should work—physical, digital, or hybrid—you must understand the work that needs to get done. To that end, the first question to ask when thinking about workplace is “What does the work require?” There is no perfect workplace model or universal solution that every organization should adopt. If the work does not require a physical space to deliver optimal results, don’t force it just because of past precedent or current management anxieties. Instead, organizations need to look at the work they are trying to accomplish and cultivate a deep understanding of the unique needs and priorities associated with those goals. Only then can organizations effectively determine where, when, and how work should be done.
Deliberately design the experience in service of outcomes and value. As organizations design workplace models in support of the work, they should start by focusing on the ultimate outcomes they seek to drive (culture, innovation, societal impact) and then determine where that value is best created. According to the leaders who responded to the Deloitte 2023 Global Human Capital Trends survey, the biggest benefit they’ve seen from their future-workplace approach is increased worker engagement and well-being, while culture is the biggest barrier.
Empower the individual, the team, and the ecosystem. Especially in light of rising worker agency, outcomes important to the workers in an organization’s ecosystem should be given equal consideration as those of the organization. That goes for workplace models as well. Organizations should do their best to align (or at least balance) their needs and desires with the needs and desires of their entire workforce. Organizations have the opportunity now to experiment boldly with their workplace model, balancing work outcomes with worker preferences, to unlock the new value they seek to create.
For example, consider where and how people interact. Studies show that collaboration is the No. 1 purpose for a physical office—a finding that applies regardless of geography, industry, role, or generation.3 As such, when creating a workplace model—whether physical, digital, or hybrid—you need to intentionally design it to support and foster connectivity and collaboration.
Current experiments: What leading organizations are exploring
- Unilever is focusing on what people produce (outcomes), not where or when they work.4 It has introduced a set of global principles on how to make the best use of office spaces—giving people flexibility and choice, while spending at least 40% of their time in the office to collaborate and connect. To that end, it is designing working options that can help people balance work and home life without completely losing the value of face-to-face contact.
- BMW is bringing the metaverse to a traditionally physical environment: the factory. Using NVIDIA’s Omniverse, a 3D collaborative metaverse platform, the company has created a perfect simulation of a future factory (i.e., digital twin).5 The future factory was designed entirely in the digital realm and simulated from beginning to end to train and remotely connect workers in a virtual 3D environment. In this digital factory, BMW’s global teams can collaborate in real time to design and reconfigure its factories, revolutionizing their planning process and eliminating the need for travel. Workers can travel virtually into an assembly simulation with a motion-capture suit and record task movements, while the line design is adjusted in real time to optimize line operations, worker ergonomics, and safety.
- FamilyMart, a convenience store chain in Japan, is experimenting with remote-controlled robots to stock shelves, enabling employees to work from anywhere using virtual reality (VR) goggles and controllers.6 A key fringe benefit of this solution is the ability to employ disabled people who lack the physical mobility to stock shelves without the assistance of robots.
- AdventHealth added virtual nurses to its care teams, which enhanced its workforce experience for nurses across the digital and physical workplace and enabled better teamwork and patient outcomes.7 Units can now have a virtual nurse team member on the screen, working with a team that’s in person. As a result, virtual nurses not only offload work from the in-person nurse, but provide care virtually with good outcomes and a good patient experience.
- M&T Bank is focusing on putting purpose at the center of its post-pandemic workplace strategy.8 In the pandemic, all of its nonessential workers were virtual. As things opened up, it promoted hybrid work—not because work couldn’t be done virtually—but because it believed that the workplace created community and connections—in the company and with its diverse customers and communities in its footprint.
A number of these innovative experiments revolve around the metaverse, which is changing how organizations think about the digital workplace and providing new digital tools to foster collaboration and create an immersive workplace experience from anywhere in the world. Benefits of the metaverse include the ability to work remotely day or night from any location, and to stay anonymous and focus on work. Gartner predicts that 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse by 2026.9 Also, three out of five tech workers say they would be interested in using the kinds of VR headsets associated with the metaverse for training and professional development.10
The path forward