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The future of the digital workplace

Over the last one and a half years, people across the world have been forced to work from home. This has naturally accelerated the development of the digital workplace. But what does the future digital workplace look like, and what are the challenges?

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What is the digital workplace?

The digital workplace is the modern, virtual workplace where technology allows employees to work from anywhere at any time. It encompasses all the different technologies your employees use to solve their tasks. This includes, for example, core business applications such as email, virtual collaboration and video tools. 

By leveraging the opportunities that come with technology, the digital workplace fosters innovation, efficiency, and growth. It breaks down communication barriers and can drive true cultural change. 

There are many benefits of rethinking the traditional workplace, and today, most companies already have in place the elements needed for a digital workplace. Having a flexible workplace that lets employees alternate between the home and company office improves employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.

It also makes talent attraction easier as more people want the freedom that comes with a digital workspace. In fact, many people would choose a lower-paying job if they can work away from the office. The digital workplace might be the solution to meet the employees’ evolving needs.

Additional reading: What is digitalisation – and how do we digitise a process?

The evolution of the workplace

The “traditional workplace” has always been in change, and we have found better ways to communicate, collaborate and connect with each other. 

This change, however, has accelerated throughout the last decades with an increasing amount of information available, new technology, and a demand for speed and efficiency. Together, these things are reshaping the work environment—and reshaping employees’ expectations. 

Why adapt to a digital workplace?

The digital workplace can help organisations and businesses solve challenges such as ongoing demands to increase productivity and cut costs, and new employee expectations. Some examples of this include: 

  • Support virtual work environments so that employees can collaborate and stay connected when working remotely
  • Offer innovative workplace environments that today’s top talents expect, in order to be in the competition for the most talented people
  • Focus on the employee experience by providing flexibility and choice
  • Improve employees’ productivity and efficiency through offering newer communication tools

Research shows that organisations with strong online social networks are 7% more productive than those without and that when employee engagement increases, there is a corresponding increase in employee retention by up to 87%

The challenges of the digital workplace

Even though many companies have come far in digitising and finding solutions that let their employees work from anywhere, there are still some challenges. 

To support the digital workplace, your company should invest in the tools your employees want, and need, to connect and communicate with each other. At the same time, you should avoid investing in too many tools. 

The more applications and systems a company invests in, the more challenging it might become for employees to do their work. According to Blissfully, the average company uses 137 unique SaaS apps on average. These numbers are from 2020, and so we can assume that they are even higher now. 

Although a lot of applications are making our workday more efficient, having to deal with too many apps might make your employees counterproductive. Research shows that more than two-thirds of employees spend up to 60 minutes each day navigating between apps

You also need to coordinate the technology your organisation invests in to avoid siloed implementations. Having clear roadmaps is necessary to ensure that the business delivers measurable results and value. Most likely, companies that don’t have a solid digital strategy will experience high staff turnover and reduced efficiency. 

You might also be interested in: — This is what digitalisation is really about

How to build a digital workplace

Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating a digital workplace, there are some leading practices that have proved successful. Deloitte explains one digital workplace framework that consists of four layers: 

  • Use: collaborate, communicate, connect

The work culture in your organisation determines how your employees leverage the digital workplace. As Deloitte states, the key is to understand how your employees prefer to work. Then, you can develop a change management plan and digital workplace strategy that aligns with the organisation’s working culture. 

  • Technology: the digital toolbox

The digital workplace strategy and your business goals should determine which tools belong in your digital toolbox. These can be tools for messaging and communication (email, instant messaging, intranet), collaboration (communities and team rooms) and productivity (software). 

Other valuable tools can be business applications (CRM, HR systems), connectivity (employee directory), and mobility (laptop, smartphones and home office). 

  • Control: governance, risk and compliance

You also need to develop a governance model that supports collaboration and connectivity while enabling compliance and mitigating risks. This might include components of digital workplace governance such as employee training and certification, guiding principles, and information governance strategy. 

For risk mitigation and compliance, you might need policy training for your employees, crisis management, and information monitoring, collection and analysis, to mention a few.

  • Business drivers: measurable business value

The digital workplace brings with it many benefits, and to realise them, the workplace must provide business value. Some ways to achieve measurable value are through reducing operational costs, providing employees with the right tools to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, accelerating the time-to-market, and increasing agility and flexibility. 

Together, these four components outline how your organisation can foster a cultural change based on how your employees prefer to work. They also clarify how you can build the right digital workplace toolbox for your business, and how you develop a governance model that supports this new way of working while also mitigating any risks. 

Lastly, by knowing how your digital workplace can achieve measurable value, your organisation can see cost reductions, higher employee satisfaction, increased revenue and enhanced innovation. 

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