Employers have had to raise the bar in terms of their workspaces in recent years. During the time of the Great Resignation, employees are using this period to reassess what they want from their jobs and their workplaces. As a result of all of this, employers are making cautious attempts to define a new normal, because even the most robust strategies can fail in the face of new working models and heightened employee preferences. Within this developing environment, we sought to identify businesses that have modified their approaches and policies to better serve their staff and are offering tools to foster an innovative, thriving, and positive workplace. This article will focus on Deloitte Canada.
Deloitte’s Next Normal
Workplace strategies have evolved throughout the years, with the pandemic only accelerating companies to adopt a hybrid working model. Deloitte, as one of Canada’s largest professional services organizations, has long been a leader in advancing their workplace strategy. Their workplace revolution started long before COVID popularized remote working; Deloitte began their office revolution in 2014 by transitioning away from enclosed offices in favor of open and shared spaces and leveraging new and emerging in-office and remote technologies. Since then, the firm has been consistently reviewing research and feedback regarding their spaces, technologies, and tools, discovering those that work best for their team.
For Deloitte, the latest shift in their workplace revolution is the implementation of the Next Normal – N2, a firm-wide hybrid model that redefines where and how their people work. Nick Chamberlain, a Senior Manager in Deloitte Canada’s Risk Advisory practice says,
“The Next Normal Project allows our people flexibility and choices – our approach to our Next Normal is to bring together our people and clients to connect and engage in unique, compelling, and purposeful ways. 11,000 employees now get the option to choose how they create value for our clients, how they achieve results and what works for them.”
What is the Next Normal?
The next normal is more than a redesign; it is a workplace strategy that redefines how and where people work. It allows employees to be flexible in their work choices based on the needs of their day. In 2021, Deloitte Canada officially announced the opening of HFX, its latest re-designed office space, in the center of Halifax’s growing waterfront district; Queen’s Marque. While Deloitte’s Next Normal project encompasses all their office spaces, this new office perfectly reflects the firm’s Next Normal work model.
“HFX offers an array of spaces and technologies that are both new to Halifax, but also new to the firm. We are able to be a proving ground for the latest, greatest, and innovative tech and spaces.”
Deloitte’s latest facility offers cutting-edge technology and spaces centered around collaboration and communication. These spaces, however, do not only improve the in-person experience; they are optimized for hybrid collaboration to facilitate an inclusive working model – in person and virtually. Inclusion is top of mind – and nobody will be left behind.
“The morale of our office staff has only improved. Our teams understand that they are the driver of their careers, and they truly get to work their way. And if they choose to come into the office, there’s a space waiting for them.”
As aforementioned, Deloitte has spent years researching how their staff work best and how the office can facilitate different working styles. The pandemic prompted all employees to work from home, thus allowing allowed HFX office designers more time to understand the impact of COVID on employee’s working trends and norms.
Amenities that support hybrid working
Here are some of the unique features of Deloitte’s new Halifax office:
Gallery Meeting Room
At HFX, the gallery meeting room is the most direct example of a hybrid space. This meeting room, according to Chamberlain, is “designed for seamless team interaction via video conferencing”. The gallery meeting room is setup with a one-sided, crescent-shaped ‘boardroom’ table, flanked by elevated benches and high-top tables, all facing a wall-mounted video screen. This screen allows for full-scale presentations and life-sized video conference participants. The design of the room specifically allows all virtual participants to feel as if they are part of the conversation, versus simply being represented by a camera at the front of the room. In ensuring no one would be left behind, Deloitte sought to develop an experience in which the virtual audience is not simply a fly on the wall but an active participant in the conversation.
Another way HFX is enabling their Next Normal hybrid work is by supporting employees who are actively avoiding distractions. During Deloitte’s re-opening phase and during their workplace strategy research, it was evident some employees are leveraging the office to escape distractions associated with working from home. It was also evident that some days, individuals were attracted to spaces that were secluded or separated from their peers. Deloitte created The Study, a space reserved for quiet, focused, and independent work. The study is designed to be distraction free and allow the same type of individual work as would be accomplished at home – but without interruptions.
Video conferencing optimized rooms
Across Deloitte’s offices, each meeting room is video conferencing optimized. HFX has deployed new plug-and-play high-definition camera and speakerphone systems allowing for easy transitions into virtual meeting spaces. Additionally, HFX has designed video conferencing booths featuring ultra-wide-screen monitors, which allow for a premium virtual presence when meeting with colleagues or presenting a deliverable for a client. From soundproofing to high-speed internet, every space is highly optimized for hybrid working and virtual communication.
Making an impact on employees, clients, and the community
Across the firm, as office re-designs are developed, Deloitte’s national real estate team is supported by local leaders and change-champions. As a member of the local design and change champion team, Chamberlain identified that throughout the process, the Halifax team had a number of opportunities to provide feedback and determine their needs as a region at Deloitte’s office, and what the teams’ require as individuals.
“Each office is unique – HFX features design components that are specifically chosen for that space in Atlantic Canada. In Halifax, the nautical theme is ever-present, and we carried that into the space in elegant and subtle ways.”
Together, Deloitte’s office re-design and the Next Normal program has made a substantial impact on their employees. Internal surveys identify that people are happier and more engaged at work when they have a choice in where and how they work. Deloitte’s N2 program is geared towards bringing value, gaining flexibility, and making improvements. Without defined requirements for folks to be in the office, Deloitte has given their employees the freedom to choose what works best for them. Overall, Deloitte’s collective mission is to create Moments that Matter and to carry that mantra into making a significant difference in the lives of their employees, clients, and community – and their Next Normal will only help them accomplish so.