When unexpected disruptions make business-as-usual impractical, it’s time to define the new normal and make it work for you. Whether it’s as a response to changing workforce expectations, the need to keep workers and society safe, or to support collaboration across teams spanning different geographic locations, many organizations today are looking at workplace flexibility in a new light. New ways of working often warrant new strategies, capabilities, behaviors, and mindsets to be successful. Here are five ways in which organizations can enable their people to work and collaborate effectively in a remote / virtual environment.
1. Start by understanding the work.
Organizations should begin this process by getting a firm understanding of the work that needs to be accomplished, what interactions are needed, and how customers are impacted. Mapping out collaboration and access requirements for the work will help determine what work in its current form can be accomplished in remote / virtual environments—and what work cannot. Workers that are directly involved with the work and related processes are best equipped to provide insights into collaboration requirements (whom they work with each day) and accessibility needs (what tools, resources, and / or information are essential).
2. Focus on the workforce experience—especially what’s different at a distance.
Workforce experience (defined as “all of the connections between individuals and their colleagues, leaders, and employer—encompassing personal, physical, digital, and organizational elements”1) is key to a human-centered approach and needs to be at the forefront in the remote workplace. A holistic workforce experience places the focus on the worker, supports wellbeing, and is anchored by core behaviors such as inclusivity, trust, and humanity.2 To advance in this area, organizations should prioritize workforce wellbeing and take an inclusive approach to work flexibility, offering options that meet a variety of diverse needs. Additionally, organizations should drive a shared accountability for workforce experience by clearly articulating and reinforcing behaviors that are vital to virtual collaboration for leaders and the workforce3, as shown in the following charts.
Workforce behaviors vital to effectively collaborate virtually
Leadership behaviors vital to effectively collaborate virtually
3. Provide extra help for workers and leaders.
Leaders play a critical role in catalyzing change in an organization. Resources and technologies can help them develop compelling relationships and facilitate collaboration in virtual environments. Creating a remote / virtual workplace doesn’t mean moving away from in-person interactions; rather, it implies thinking of new ways of personalizing interactions in a separate environment. Optimizing and personalizing meetings is a powerful means to build an engaging, human-centered experience. For instance, leveraging video during virtual meetings is as close to a personal, face-to-face interaction as is possible in a remote setup. The following chart outlines tips for creating successful virtual meetings.4
Tips for creating successful virtual meetings
4. Use data to inform decisions and uncover opportunities to tweak and tune.
Our research shows that high-performing organizations are 15 times more likely than low-performing organizations to use data to inform workplace decisions.5 This data can be sourced from within the organization (e.g., human resources information systems, employee survey data, operational work systems) and from outside (e.g., customer requirements, broader talent market trends, or data about the remote potential for jobs). Organizations should use different types of data to help them determine what needs to change, start small and experiment with different workplace options, and then iterate and scale those changes gradually.
5. View the big picture.
As organizations progress through the above areas, they should also take a moment to step back and see this notion of workplace holistically—as more than just the traditional physical office. Organizations can drive even more value from remote / virtual work. Empowerment and flexibility in the context of current roles can open doors for the current workforce to surface new ways to use nontraditional work environments to deliver greater impact and value.
If your organization is innovating in the area of enabling and optimizing remote and flexible work, we’d love to hear from you! Contact Kathi Enderes and Nehal Nangia to share your story, or contact and Burt Rea to become a part of Deloitte’s Research & Sensing membership program.
1Interactive Workforce Experience Framework, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Christina Rasieleski and Matthew Deruntz, 2020.
2The Workforce Experience Maturity Model, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Christina Rasieleski and Matthew Deruntz, 2019.
3Increasing Organizational Resilience in the Face of COVID-19, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2020.
4Increasing Organizational Resilience in the Face of COVID-19, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2020.
5Future of Talent research, Deloitte Consulting LLP 2020.