These days, we are all Professor Robert Kelly. You may remember Kelly from back in 2017, when his children crashed a BBC interview he was doing from his home office. Kelly, dressed in jacket and tie, did his best to maintain his on-camera, professional demeanor even as his wife tried desperately to wrangle the rambunctious children. The clip went viral. Little did any of us know at the time that a few years later, many of us would be doing the same thing—trying to quiet the kids down, stopping the dog from barking, and restoring an appearance of order to our environment.
The past year taught us valuable lessons about work and well-being. With the abrupt shift to remote work, many of us found ourselves juggling the demands of work, school, and home life in new ways. The pandemic highlighted and magnified the connection between work and overall well-being. It exposed all of us to new sources of stress and different kinds of fatigue. On the plus side, it taught us valuable lessons about how we can reorganize our lives, our work, and our workplaces so that they are more flexible and more conducive to well-being. Now, as many companies are moving to a hybrid work model, we have an extraordinary opportunity to apply what we’ve learned during the pandemic, and design more equitable and human-centered workplaces and work experiences.
We need to approach hybrid work in an intentional way. There are no simple answers when it comes to designing a hybrid work model. What we can do is understand the challenges, and be intentional about the steps we take. Our model at Deloitte has long required the ability to effectively work both onsite and virtually, with time spent across client sites, offices, and home. Now, as we design a hybrid work model for our US workforce, we are taking a hard look at when and where our people need to be together, and how we can reduce the time we spend traveling and commuting. Perhaps the most drastic of changes we can expect to see in the “new normal” is a reduction in business travel across the board. In a recent survey of our clients, 69% said they expect travel budgets to be reduced to at least 75% of what they were pre-pandemic. As we continue to meet the needs of our clients, we will collectively travel less. This deliberate, data-driven approach will have the added benefit of supporting our sustainability net-zero 2030 commitment.
We’ve learned that we can come together at moments that matter—with our clients and professionals to drive successful project outcomes. While some people still have qualms about transitioning back to in-person working environments, others miss connecting with clients, impromptu brainstorming sessions, walks down the hall, or just catching up over lunch. Human-centered work means there is no one-size-fits-all. That’s why we’ve looked bottoms-up at the work we do, talked with our teams, and listened to our people to determine how much in-person time is needed to get the best outcomes for each cohort in our business.
We’ve also learned lessons about humanizing the talent experience. The past year showed us that our people are at their best when they can bring their authentic selves to work. Keeping up appearances by putting on a business suit matters less than being truly present in jeans and a t-shirt. When life imposes itself on the workday—when the dog barks, when the kids rush the room, or when you need to support elder care needs—we’ve learned that the best way to react is for everyone to demonstrate a little grace. That small, social burden is one we can all share. Being forgiving goes hand in hand with trusting each other to get the work done, and we’ve found that trusting our people makes them more productive and engaged. The aim is not just to establish hybrid work routines, but to unlock human potential in ways that the traditional work model couldn’t.
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