Deloitte’s new office working as recruitment and retention tool
Posted on December 10, 2021 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments
Deloitte began planning for its new office at 1741 Water Street in Halifax, at the Queen’s Marque, several years before the end of summer 2021, when its old lease at Purdy’s Wharf was scheduled to end. Design work began before COVID-19 arrived, but the pandemic prompted changes in their plans as new ideas emerged within the company on the future of work.
Deloitte has now officially taken up residence in its new, 20,000-square-foot space spread over two floors of the building. Walking onto the eighth floor of the building today, you’ll see a trendy, open-concept floor space, with an area of auditorium-style seating and light flooding in from the windows and terrace. True physical barriers, specifically walls, in the area are few. The walls of two, large, adjacent boardrooms are able to retract completely to add to the central space. And the central space of the floor allows for larger gatherings of 100 people or more, Deloitte’s managing partner for Atlantic Canada, Sheri Penner, recently told Atlantic Business Magazine.
About 25% of one floor of the new space is still being completed. The delay was intentional, with the area now effectively becoming a living lab for new office design. Workspaces are being installed with layout and functions uniquely suited to Deloitte’s “Next Normal” view on the future work. An example of one of the newest designs is a board room where one side of the central table is left without chairs and with video screens the length of the table, positioned so remote attendees can be part of the meeting in the same way they are if physically in the room. No more office meetings with voices emerging from a console at the centre of the table or laptops awkwardly positioned.
As a whole, Deloitte’s new office space is a break from the past. An older office may have dedicated as much as 80% of its floor space to individual, assigned work areas, Penner said, where employees staked claims on small pieces of the overall square footage. Turning that ship, pre-pandemic, Deloitte started introducing clean desk policies and discouraged paper piles, then went paperless. A policy was introduced whereby the desk you sat at one day may not be the desk you sat at the next, unless you chose the same space. Employees were, for better or worse, being untethered from the traditional office concept.
Any uncertainties around the approach started to melt away, then quickly fell to the wayside in the pandemic. Pre-COVID, Deloitte was exploring trends and employee opinions suggesting there was growing interest in mobility, in flexibility in work hours and location. It wouldn’t work for every company and type of work, but it could work for them. More flexible and collaborative office space was desired, rather than fixed desks, assigned spaces. Deloitte leadership planned for the new office in Halifax to, from the start, use a system whereby employees booked workspaces in the office as needed, day to day. Employees were also encouraged to begin viewing three locations – office, home office and client space – as part of their normal work environment.
Pre-pandemic the mindset there was largely efficiency of space and a start to normalizing the potential for working from home, if that was desired, Penner said. Into the pandemic, work from home was rapidly normalized and more importantly finding favour as an option with some employees. Like most companies, the arrival of the pandemic sent Deloitte workers home, including the roughly 210 employees assigned out of the old Halifax office. Employees would eventually return, but they would be working away from the office setting to start. Remote work was not entirely new or even uncommon for Deloitte’s staff but now all of the company’s employees were beginning to consider how more remote work could be part of a new normal post-pandemic. And now, outside of work in client spaces, it’s common for employees to spend part of their week in the office and part working from home.
A Deloitte Canada 2021 employee survey, according to a company release in July, “revealed that our partners and people feel more productive working virtually 55 per cent and 36 per cent of their time, respectively. That’s in stark contrast to a 2016 Deloitte study that found that 90 per cent of people preferred to work at the office.” Penner said recent surveys suggested only about 10% of employees wanted to continue to have the office as their full-time base of work.
Penner said the more recent thinking has been around technology and of design allowing for more seamless and easy connections between employees and with clients. And the office space is dedicated to some of the individual work and productive collaborations. Apart from the open, front-facing area where clients will surely be invited and individual spaces — an in-office library space with individual stations, individual video-capable work booths — the new office space in Halifax was built with multiple rooms designed for two, five or 10 people, whatever is needed at a given time and equipped to accommodate remote workers. “That is the difference. Supercharging that collaboration with better collaboration spaces, better technology in those spaces that you can connect with other teams, in other places, in a way that there’s a premium for being in that space,” Penner said.
Per reports from RBC and CIBC Capital Markets, the “Great Resignation” trend seen in the United States hasn’t appeared in Canada in the labour data, at least yet. Penner said Deloitte is pushing a “talent value proposition” and trying to meet people where they are. And whether it is the Great Resignation arriving in the audit, consulting and financial advisory business or just the normal competition for top talent, she said Deloitte will use its new workspace and work model as part of its pitch to retain and attract people.
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