Opportunities and challenges in the virtual workplace

The time is now to lay the foundation for a new operating model

Alicia Kuhn

Alicia Kuhn

Director Advisory, Procurement & Business Services, KPMG US

+1 404 219 7978

Kim Huddle

Kim Huddle

Managing Director, Consumer & Retail Industry Lead, KPMG US

+1 832-515-7106

Now that the initial adjustment to remote working is behind many companies, there is an increasing focus by business services leaders on understanding the constraints and opportunities of our new reality.

We're more connected to our clients than ever, but the virtual environment lacks authenticity and feels less human.

In this new virtual environment, efficiencies with remote work have enhanced individual productivity.   Accordingly, service providers are changing processes, technology and ways of communication to minimize the disruption and maintain business as usual. The need for better connectivity for 'work-from-home', new technologies to allow collaboration and increased degree of automation are all areas which have been put back to focus by COVID-19.

At KPMG, we see that Service Providers have shaped the ‘Reaction’ (response to crises) by thinking on their feet, innovating and finding all ways possible to fulfill their commitments both towards the clients and their employees. Even when clients' and Service Providers' staff are working from home, the latter have adopted new processes and new ways of working to keep up the engagement during this tough time.

Some leaders are beginning to question whether going back to old ways of working in large, centralized office settings is the most effective and efficient way to do business. Will offering remote work options help companies attract top talent nationally? Will productivity increase by operating through a network of smaller regional offices? How will increasing acceptance for remote work impact the value of real estate investments and overall location decisions? 

Companies are already seeing positive impacts of the shift to virtual work. For example, a major pharmaceutical company we work with has 98 percent of its employees working from home right now. It has so far experienced no major disruptions in day-to-day operations.

However, remote workplaces also present organizational challenges. For example, complex activities that require deep collaboration across teams may be more difficult to accomplish in purely remote working settings using the applications and tools of today. Adoption of innovative technologies may be required to support large-scale transformation efforts.

New human resource considerations are also emerging. Business leaders must take steps to ensure connectivity and productivity as employees work staggered schedules and entirely remotely. Maintaining an innovation and collaboration culture and set of activities will also be imperative. Many companies are now leveraging collaboration tools initially designed for consumer, such as Zoom and Facebook, to keep work flowing and teams together.

We expect further evolution of hoteling as part of the real estate and virtual work balancing. Resources will adapt differently and at a different pace, so workforce shaping and learning management will be key to redefining aspects of working culture. 

With people management changes will come a new set of criteria to evaluate managers. One company is now actively evaluating which of its managers are adjusting best and show the most promise to thrive in this new working environment. We think eventually this will extend to the entire businesses services workforce.  Companies need to determine what the evaluation criteria should be to determine what good looks like. 

We are just now starting to see a realization among business services leaders of the opportunities, risks and challenges of what the new beginning will be.  Regardless of your business and degree of technology maturity, the time is now to lay the foundation for a new operating model. Listen to the most recent podcast from our GBS team here.

Visit KPMG’s resource pages on to the COVID-19 page and Global Business Services