The term digital transformation is beginning to be surpassed at the usual speed of new technologies, and already evolved companies refer to a digital workplace as the new market reality. Literally, a digital workplace consists of the natural integration of the processes of a company or service in which all the actors are at the same time users of digital technologies such as apps, the Big Data, or the Internet of Things.
The "digital workplace": a concept with huge influence
Today's technological progress offers many new opportunities, but also brings many challenges: customers want to be served faster and at higher quality, and employees prefer flexible working hours and options such as a home office. At the same time, a myriad of technologies makes it more difficult to balance coordination and communication between these two pillars.
Companies are changing the way they think about the role of technology, forcing managers to re-imagine how to deliver the applications and services that employees, customers, and partners need to be productive. The solution, without a doubt, is digital workspaces, which make it possible to close the gap between consumers and the human resources department and revolutionize the traditional way of working. In this sense, the classic processes of the company have to be abandoned, and a more dynamic and faster communication strategy has to be introduced. Processes that were previously executed analogously are now carried out online, i.e. in the cloud.
What is a digital workplace actually?
A digital workplace is a change in the mindset of an organization. It means understanding that the way we work today is different from how we worked when the term workplace was conceived, and that difference is driven by the evolution of (digital) technologies.
This concept implies that companies should use digital transformation (DX) to align technology, employees, and business processes to improve operational efficiency and meet organizational goals. Meant to be the virtual compliment to the physical office space, a digital workplace is a broad term that includes any device, software, or platform that staff members use to do their jobs.
Introducing this complex idea, intended to be a virtual equivalent of the physical workplace, requiries sound planning and management because of its critical role in people's productivity, engagement, and occupational health.
There are many aspects that form and catalyze any digital workplace: cloud-based solutions, communication and collaboration tools, software facilitating video conferences, online project management tools, email, calendars, document storage software, customer support management tools and help desk solutions.
Many employees imagine a digital workplace as a fully technologized experience, where all “traditional” ways of work are gone. Especially those that they don’t like the most: commuting, inflexible working hours, repetitive tasks. Others, on the other hand, are a bit scared by this concept, as they expect negative results like total control or tracking every second of their job.
The reality is different, mostly because this concept is more than that. On one hand it’s way more complex but on the other, it simplifies many tasks and daily struggles, bringing way more advantages than disadvantages, especially for the employees.
3 reasons why you should be interested in a digital workplace
The reasons why many companies are moving towards the digital workplace are diverse. But three stand out very clearly:
1. Companies seek for a productive and committed workforce
If all necessary and required resources are available and if they are used in the best possible way, productivity and last but not least satisfaction will increase - this applies to both the company and the customer. Employees have more freedom and fewer difficulties in carrying out their work and customers receive the service they expect.
2. Companies need more security
With the increased requirements for being able to access important information at any time and from anywhere, the demands for data protection and security continue to grow. By creating a digital network in which all areas can be managed efficiently, you can control the flow of data better. Assignment of rights, access controls and internal security systems are the cornerstones of a functioning digital workplace which is only possible due to advanced technologies: In this context, companies rely on high encryption standards and precisely define who can access which data.
3. Companies require flexible solutions
In an integrated digital environment, all tools can be optimally adapted to internal processes and structures. As explained in point 2, this flexibility relates on the one hand to the issue of security, because some tools - including Stackfield - allow precise control of access rights. Similarly, advanced Cloud / SaaS solutions offer flexibility with regard to the individual work processes of companies by simply embedding their applications in a wide range of workflows.
Defining YOUR digital workplace
For the implementation of a digital workspace, it is necessary to consider, mainly, the needs of the employees, incorporating all the departments of the organization in the digital transformation. In this way, the work team will be able to understand the benefits of this new system, favoring the willingness to change.
Once this has been achieved, strategic planning is carried out. At this stage, the adequate technologies, the necessary procedures, the user experience of employees, and the handling of the information of a digital workplace are detailed. As with all corporate digital environments, emphasis must also be placed on information protection. This is in order to mitigate the risks and strengthen the security of all the data that make up the new digital workplace system.
These are the questions every company should answer before introducing the idea of a digital workplace within their organization:
- What tools do employees need?
- Where are there gaps between employee needs and the tools available?
- Do employees know which solutions to use in each case? Are these tools easy to use, and do they reduce the time needed to perform certain tasks?
- Can every employee connect to the information and tools they need, regardless of their device or location?
- Do our employees understand our organization, its direction, and purpose? How do they contribute to the achievement of its goals?
- How is the employee experience of our current digital workplace?
- Can we align the tools with the company's objectives?
- Is it possible to integrate all the tools so that they can work together?
- What technologies already make up our digital workplace?
- Are we leveraging an effective digital workplace platform or intranet solution to give our employees a central access point to our digital workplace?
- What do we envision for the future of our digital workplace?
- Are the technologies used to create our digital workplace secure and compliant with the existing laws (e.g. GDPR)?
These are the advantages of digital workplaces
The shift to digital offers the potential for labor- and cost-saving automation and a better work-life balance for employees who can work remotely.
Digital workplace initiatives can also benefit business intelligence efforts, as most digital processes automatically create an activity log that can be fed into data analysis and visualization models to help measure the effectiveness of operations.
Digital workplaces also enable companies to reduce their physical footprint and operational costs as processes such as document storage and employee collaboration are transferred into the Cloud.
In addition, surveys have shown that effective digital workplaces can attract more talent, increase individual productivity, and increase employee retention.
More benefits for employees working in digital workplaces.
There are also benefits strictly "reserved" for employees. In the publication titled “The impact of the digital workforce”, Forbes highlights the following advantages of a digital workplace:
- The speed of decision making increases by 16%.
- Employee collaboration increases by 16%.
- There is a strong possibility that the personal productivity of team members will increase fivefold in a digital workspace.
Though, there are many more:
Universal access. This is perhaps the greatest of all competitive advantages. Digital workspaces make it easy to work from anywhere in the world and through a variety of devices. In fact, they are the ones that make teleworking possible, among other things.
Collaboration. Digital work environments promote teamwork and encourage collaboration with other professionals. These tools facilitate communication and working simultaneously on the same project.
User friendliness. This type of work environment can be used immediately after integration. Moreover, it is not necessary to train employees to use them, since these tools are very intuitive.
Flexibility. In most cases, professionals have to work on several projects at once. Therefore, digital work environments are designed to withstand interruptions, with customizable workflows that offer the flexibility that users need for bigger projects.
Are there any drawbacks to a digital workplace?
Of course, a digital workplace also has its drawbacks. There are platforms that specialize in making collaboration easier and more effective, but another important component is missing in the digital environment: social interaction. The feeling of community can suffer from the distance and the emotional component, gestures and facial expressions are missing when people are just texting each other. This, too, can lead to communication difficulties since missunderstandings become more likely.
As far as possible, employees should also meet in person from time to time and use a video call function for important meetings.
However, it is clear that everything in the business world is moving in the direction of the digital workplace, that companies generally benefit from the digitization of their work processes despite some disadvantages, and that the rapid pace of development leaves no other option but to keep up.
Nowadays, having a digital workspace is a competitive and differentiating advantage, capable of boosting many of the day-to-day processes in an organization. In 2018, 41% of companies still had a traditional workplace, but 22% have already been working on the implementation of digital technologies. (Penteo) The development is progressing rapidly.