The digital-ready workplace

We have a new essay published in Deloitte Insights, The digital-ready workplace: Supercharging digital teams in the future of work,1Evans-Greenwood, P, Stockdale, R, & Patston, T 2021, ‘The digital-ready workplace: Supercharging digital teams in the future of work’, Deloitte Insights, <>. a collaboration with Rosemary Stockdale from Griffith Business School and Tim Patston from UniSA STEM at the University of South Australia.

Most (if not all) research groups have done a survey on the affect working from home has had—this is ours, though it’s ended up in a different place. We start by trying to understand the relative merits of a push or pull approach to support workers during the transition, where push is the usual “give them the tools and training we think they’ll need” while pull is empower and support workers in finding their own tools. Generally, a push approach works well when the challenge is understood beforehand, while a pull approach is better when the challenge is not well understood as it enables workers to adapt. We’d heard anecdotal stories that firms had taken different approaches, and we were wondering how the relative benefits and problems stacked up. What we discovered, once the data started coming in, was that we were asking the wrong question.

It’s not a matter of push vs pull, firms need to do both. What did stand out in the data was that a successful transition was more reliant on a worker being in a small to mid-sized team, one 2-15 people, than anything else. Individual workers, such as freelancers, or workers in large bureaucracies, often struggled. This was the first insight from the work: that it’s teams that adapted to working from home, not individual.

This aligns with some of our other work, such as Building the peloton,2Watson, J et al. 2020, ‘Building the peloton: High performance team-building in the future of work’, Deloitte Insights, <>. that shows that most work today is team work, and workers are only productive if they are in a productive team. For example, we found in this survey a digitally competent team3An idea we explored in Evans-Greenwood, P, Patston, T, & Flouch, A 2019, ‘The digital-ready worker: Digital agency and the pursuit of productivity’, Deloitte Insights, <>. did not need all (or possibly any) of the workers to be digitally competent to function. Similarly, a worker considered themselves to be competent if they were a member of a digitally competent team. This is likely due to social knowledge—”I know something as I know someone who can help me”—which, in turn, depends on psychologically safety. This led to the second insight: that what we were seeing wasn’t a transition to working from home, but a transition to working purely digitally. It didn’t matter where the workers were located physically. What did matter was that they had a healthy relationship with their colleagues, the other team members, so that they could navigate past the challenges of working without any (or very little) in-person interaction.

So rather than write an essay on push vs pull, we have one that explores why it’s teams (rather than individuals) that make the transition to working from home. The essay unpacks these issues and ties them back to models and ideas from research into digital competency, creativity, and provides a tentative path forward.

This essay is part of the To code, or not to code series. In reverse order, the previous essays are:

You can find this essay, The digital-ready workplace, on Deloitte Insights.