Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Disruptive forces in business are becoming the norm and by now, most leaders have been impacted in some way. Demographic upheavals, rapid advances in technology and a new social contract between employers and employees have converged, putting pressure on the traditional top-down hierarchical organization – one that is increasingly being replaced by more team-centric models. While much leadership attention has focused on the important work of restructuring the organization and its systems to manage this change, too few leaders have also paid attention to the equally important task of adjusting the physical structure of their workplaces.

In some organizations, there can be as many as five generations working full and part time in various locations or remotely, along with a growing number of contract or "on-demand" personnel brought in as required as part of a network of teams. Employee expectations are also changing with an increased premium on flexibility and purpose at work, particularly from younger people. These employees see themselves working for many employers throughout their careers and they value a compelling workplace as much as they do an interesting job with opportunities to grow.

Story continues below advertisement

Increasingly flexible workforces need increasingly flexible workspaces, too. A recent Deloitte study found that although one in four Canadians would like the option to work remotely, only 10 per cent actually prefer it. In other words, 90 per cent of people prefer to work at an office, even millennials. But that doesn't mean the office as we've known it for the better part of the last century, where every employee has a dedicated workspace that supports a traditional way of working.

Today's office needs to break down the barriers – literally and figuratively – that hinder collaboration and innovation. Focus is shifting to team-centric approaches to work, rather than traditional models where just five per cent of space is dedicated to fostering teamwork. Offices also need to adapt to a world where a substantial portion of the workforce will be engaged to address specific, often short-term needs. Bringing unique teams together for projects requires flexible workspaces to accommodate them, including that growing army of contract workers engaged for their particular expertise. And once a team-based project is over, employees need a "home base" to return to, where they can continue to learn and prepare for the next team assignment, wherever that may be.

Creating a flexible workspace can be as simple as setting up a lounge area where employees can meet informally, or putting a meeting table in a high-traffic area to encourage connections employees wouldn't otherwise make if they stayed at their dedicated workstation all day.

Over the past several years, we have been putting this thinking into practice to create the sweet spot between flexibility and engagement – where collaboration is the ideal. We are redesigning our offices across Canada to create unique destinations for our people and clients that provide increased flexibility and choice around how people work; places that encourage social interaction and collaboration to inspire greater innovation, deeper engagement and better results.

In our new Toronto office, for example, 65 per cent of the space is dedicated to teamwork. While all employees have a "locker" to keep their personal things and files, no one has dedicated desk space – including me. Instead, there are 18 different types of workspaces that allow employees to match their work environment to the task at hand.

There are no typical days. Our people are empowered to work where and how they like, enabled by design and technology. They move about the space based on what they need to accomplish that day, changing their location as many times as they need to.

They might start the day in a lounge area, responding to e-mail over coffee, then move to a desk with dual monitors to spend a few hours working on a presentation. Later they might take a private call in a phone booth, before stepping into a meeting room with a client to use wireless content sharing on a big screen. There are standing desks, collaboration spaces and treadmill desks they can take advantage of at any given time.

Story continues below advertisement

This approach to work is also inclusive. By removing barriers, each person has the opportunity to contribute their unique skills in a more flexible environment that adapts to the demands of their work and needs.

Our research shows that workplace values are largely compatible across generations, but where they differ is in their approaches to work itself and how work gets done. These differing approaches have changed the workplace profoundly, including how leaders think about its physical structure. Organizations that create truly flexible offices – representing the physical expression of a new era of work – will be better able to attract and retain key talent, giving them a competitive advantage and better business outcomes.

Frank Vettese is Deloitte managing partner, chief executive and chief inclusion officer in Canada.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies