As the workplace becomes more virtual, is your organization ready?
Managers who still believe that the size and location of their office reflects their “status” and employees who practice “out of sight, out of mind” as the safest way to survive in a volatile job market are both in for a rude awakening in the not-too-distant future. The long-standing belief that the physical workspace is the critical center of productivity is falling away and is being replaced by the realization that work is more about what we do, and less about where we go.
The influences of rapid technology advances, pressure on management to reduce the cost of operations, and the “no-borders” mentality of globalization are changing how we work. For example, the so-called work day is rapidly becoming a 24x7, continuous business cycle. Geographic location and distance no longer limit the ability of workers to instantly communicate and collaborate. A work force is no longer defined as a homogenous group of individuals working in a single location. These changes have resulted in less emphasis on the actual workplace and have diminished many of the traditions associated with organizational structures, such as the prestige of landing a corner office.
The result is a whole new way of thinking about how and where we work, including acceptance of the reality that we are increasingly mobile and our workplaces increasingly virtual. One hundred percent virtual work is not likely or even remotely feasible in most workplace situations, but the prospect of real integration of virtual and in-person work that allows flexibility and cross-border, cross-time-zone leverage offers undisputed benefits. Clearly, there are real benefits for sustainability and corporate responsibility—from office footprints to energy production and consumption, and from environmental impact to human productivity. This is a new area of corporate branding to which more companies are paying close attention.
As more organizations transition to virtual workplaces, productivity and technology tools continue to evolve to support the change. Consider, for example, the extraordinary developments over just the past year or two in the ability to hold impromptu “live” group meetings via tele- and video-conferencing, instant messaging capabilities, and enhancements to multi-platform communications and Internet access.
Consider the implications for your organization
Workplace strategies are evolving in tandem with workplace changes—are you and your organization ready to rise and meet the challenges that will be involved? Even if you don’t see clear evidence of the virtual workplace shift today, it is coming, and those who start to think through the implications now will likely be ahead of the game later on.
In our work within our own organization and with our clients, we have observed that many obstacles to making virtual workplace practices a part of the suite of tools available to managers and employees are more a matter of mindset change than any other factor. Companies should focus on laying the groundwork early for the mindset shift from an “activity-based” to a “results-based” organization. This requires a workforce composed of professionals who know what it takes to achieve the expected results and who are led by managers who trust the professionals who work for them. Both managers and employees must understand their individual roles and how to work together across locations. When the right mindset, clear roles and responsibilities, and accountability/trust factors are in place, adding a virtual component to your business may be a non-event. Moreover, Deloitte sees evidence every day that this may actually improve your bottom line, while providing employees with some much-desired flexibility, and ultimately result in their increased loyalty and dedication to your organization.
Benefits outweigh challenges
Achieving improved margins, serving customers more responsively and more flexibly, positioning your organization as a sustainable and responsible employer, and competing effectively in the talent market by offering employees more workplace choice and flexibility are just some of the outcomes that can make this journey worth the trouble.
Deloitte Consulting LLP
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