Supporting the untethered workplace

Mobility and the future of work

Supporting the untethered workplace
Posted by Stephen Redwood on February 8, 2017.

For years it was common to hear—and sympathize—when someone mentioned being “chained to my desk.” The phrase could suggest a few things: lack of workplace freedom, a very heavy workload, and even indispensability. Today, though, the way work gets done has become increasingly mobile. People no longer have to be at their desk to be working hard or filling an indispensable role, and many organizations have recognized the value of enabling more freedom in how and where employees work. In fact, our research found that mobility factors heavily in how C-suite leaders see the future of work.

The transition toward enabling workforce mobility has a few components helping to drive it. First, employers often gain cost benefits from being able to reduce the physical footprint of the space they occupy. At the same time, employees receive the benefit of being able to work remotely.

Second is the idea of mobility fueling the trend toward global teaming. Companies need to be able to organize people based on the work that must be done. Increasingly, many large organizations with a global footprint want to be able to pull together teams that can operate effectively with the best talent. That means not simply forming a team because the members are close to each other, but being able to pull teams together across borders and across different functions regardless of where they sit.

The third factor is what’s come to be known as the gig economy, which operates on a couple of levels. First, there are jobs that offer people the opportunity to work at their own convenience (e.g., driving-for-hire) but that offer modest remuneration and may require high volume to earn a living. Another level encompasses very high-demand talent—people that have the opportunity to make a good living sitting outside the four walls of an organization, working on demand and having great control over when and how they work. This is the point where the gig economy and on-demand economy collide with the highest-talent workforce.

Hiring on demand can have benefits for business in that it reduces the cost and obligations associated with being a full-time employer and offers the flexibility to bring in people when their particular skills are needed. For the individuals, it gives them more control over their work environment and when, how, and for whom they want to work.

These factors together make enabling and supporting mobility an important consideration for organizations, and our recent survey of C-level executives confirms that leaders are taking it seriously.

In September 2016, Deloitte conducted an anonymous survey (sponsored by Facebook) of 245 C-level executives from companies small (revenues less than $50 million) to large (revenues greater than $10 billion) from a range of geographic regions. Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents called it a strategic objective to transform their organization’s culture through a focus on increasing connectivity, communication, and collaboration.

Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (78 percent) said they expect mobile to be the dominant technology environment over the next five years. When asked to look ahead five years, 72 percent said they expect either a significant increase in cross-cultural virtual teaming (45 percent) or predominantly cross-cultural virtual teaming (27 percent).

You can read more about the survey and how the C-suite is thinking about mobility and collaboration in Transitioning to the Future of Work and the Workplace: Embracing Digital Culture, Tools, and Approaches. Specifically, the white paper highlights six themes and corresponding lessons for organizations to consider as the way we work continues to evolve. As we note in the paper, “…work in future will be more networked, more devolved, more mobile, more team-based, more project-based, more collaborative, more real-time, and more fluid. The challenge will to be make sure it is not more complicated, confusing, or overwhelming.”

Stephen Redwood is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP. He specializes in helping organizations transform through culture change, leadership development, behavioral change, and organization redesign.

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