Will you reimagine a better future work model?
Across most industries, COVID-19 has challenged even the most resilient and robust organizations on an unprecedented scale. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.
Pascal Martino - Partner - Banking & Human Capital Leader - Deloitte
François Bade - Director - Advisory & Consulting - Deloitte
Eric Sjögren - Manager - Human Capital Advisory Services - Deloitte
Published on 4 March 2021
In all honesty—who would have thought that the nature and experience of work could have changed so much for so many of us, and so rapidly?
The accelerated and involuntary adoption of new ways of working has led to rampant changes in mindsets and skillsets. The upheaval has sped up pre-existing trends and delivered positive developments, whilst raising awareness about fundamental challenges pertaining to the future of work. As vaccines and effective sanitary measures raise the uncertain but attractive promise of a return to some form of normalcy, the key question becomes: now what?
It seems obvious that organizations will only be successful if they reimagine and redesign hybrid models of work to adapt and thrive in the future. We believe that we are now at a crossroads, where the choices made and decisions taken about the nature, organization and purpose of work in the future require very careful consideration.
FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
The practices and philosophy surrounding how work is performed are shifting. This pandemic has dramatically amplified the rate of change of work models, challenging orthodoxies around workforce capability, configuration and flexibility. Organizations now have a license to test and experiment with new ways of working, selecting the lessons to embed in their near and mid-term futures, and how they will define their new standard of reality.
The most sophisticated work models have rapidly progressed from flexible work arrangements—such as job sharing, compressed working weeks, flexible schedules and remote work—into arrangements emphasizing complete trust in and empowerment of employees to identify work environments that reveal their latent potential.
When and where work gets done is only part of the opportunity around rearchitecting work models. More mature work models also provide flexibility and autonomy for how and what work is performed, building networks of teams and technology to augment work and collaborate in ways that deliver the best outcomes for customers, business and employees.
Organizations providing ultimate choice around the “how and what” of work promote the devolution of decision-making authorities, structure work around customer missions, build cultures of trust and confidence, drive inclusive leadership, and leverage intelligent technologies to increase purpose and productivity.
YESTERDAY'S TRENDS AND EXPERIMENTS ARE BECOMING A REALITY
The workplace—and more broadly the experience of work—has been undergoing a slow redefinition for more than a decade. The increased pace of change has induced a faster redefinition of common assumptions and a generational shift in thinking around the purpose and meaning of work. Most obviously, the role of the physical office space has undergone a fundamental shake-up from the sole location of work to a social and collaborative hub.
Expectations about productivity have also evolved, with organizations discovering that productivity gains can be unlocked with less rigid, more flexible remote or hybrid work models. This is complemented by an accelerated shift from functional hierarchy to team-centric and network-based organizational models, with increasingly devolved decision rights, empowered teams, and inclusive leadership. By focusing on designing work around improved wellbeing outcomes, organizations are also contributing to healthier, happier and more engaged employees.
Just as we are bringing the work to the people rather than the people to work, we are similarly seeing an acceleration of learning in the flow of work, both physically and digitally. Organizations are eliminating the physical distance between learning and work to create strong learning cultures and capability communities. The most successful future organizations will likely be those that actively seek to design employee experiences, promote a culture of trust and confidence, and actively support hybrid ways of working.
DELOITTE'S FUTURE WORK MODELS
When rethinking an organization’s future work model, we must consider two critical degrees of choice around “when and where” and “how and what” work is completed. Determining the degree of choice and autonomy around these two axes ultimately results in one of these four future work model scenarios.
WORK MODEL ONE CO-LOCATED COLLABORATION
Work is executed through fluid networks of teams focused on achieving customer missions. These teams thrive when they are co-located, working together physically and using digital tools and platforms to connect with remote peers when needed. Employees do their best work when they are on-site, have the right tools at their fingertips, and work across the same time zones together.
WORK MODEL TWO SOCIAL STABILITY
These organizations will choose to maintain stability in when, how and where work is completed—a lot like the “old normal”. The workforce is focused on task execution relevant to their functional units, reflecting a traditional hierarchical model. Employees are most comfortable when working together and thrive through social and physical connections. There is a preference for working on-site with access to shared equipment, tools and face-to-face connection.
WORK MODEL THREE HYBRID FLEXIBILITY
These organizations will focus on employee outputs and outcomes over time on the clock. Work is executed through traditional and functionally aligned structures, with high flexibility around location and time. These workforces are comfortable with hybrid ways of working (both physical and virtual).
WORK MODEL FOUR PERSONALIZED AUTONOMY
These organizations will provide complete choice, autonomy and flexibility to their employees across all dimensions, creating highly empowered teams. Employees work across fluid networks of teams to achieve customer missions in virtual-hybrid environments. Teams are in tune with each other and have clear norms around ways of working.
CAREFULLY CONSIDERING RISKS AND REWARDS WILL BE CRITICAL
Building and operating these future work models are not without risk. The complexity of simultaneously attempting to deliver the best experiences for workers, clients and other stakeholders will be particularly challenging in hybrid models. Some of the key risks we have identified are as follows:
RISK 01 UNSHARED CULTURE
When large sections of the workforce work remotely, organizations will need to purposefully rearchitect shared rituals, employee experiences and behaviors to promote hybrid ways of working that maintain and elevate their organizational culture.
RISK 02 ALL OR NOTHING
Organizations risk an “all or nothing” work model that is entirely rooted in either the physical or digital world. They must make a concerted effort to determine which employees will require interventions to help them adopt hybrid ways of working.
RISK 03 WORK-LIFE IMBALANCE
The pandemic saw parents working while parenting and millennials working where they eat and sleep, promoting an “always-on” mindset. Remote workers may also overcompensate to keep demonstrating “outcome-based” productivity when their efforts are not directly visible to others. Therefore, organizations must apply the lens of employee wellbeing to all new work model designs.
RISK 04 UNEQUAL CAREERS
Organizations will have an increased responsibility to address workplace biases (e.g., leaders’ tendency to promote more “present”, co-located, and visible workers) and design career journeys and leadership capabilities to support a more hybrid workforce.
Regardless of the model chosen, today’s leaders have an opportunity to reimagine and redesign work in the right way for the future. To make humans better at work and work better for humans. To provide richness of choice, flexibility and autonomy. And, to equip us for tomorrow’s work, today. When organizational preparedness requires the ability to leverage the human strengths of increasingly hybrid teams and organizations, selecting and implementing the right future work model will be essential to create lasting value for workers, stakeholders and society alike.
2021 Global Human Capital Trends
In today’s world of perpetual disruption, it’s time for organizations to shift from a survive mindset to a thrive mindset. Making this shift depends on an organization’s becoming—and remaining—distinctly human at its core, because today’s environment of extreme dynamism calls for a degree of courage, judgment, and flexibility that only humans can bring.