The digital workplace is the concept that businesses 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, the digital workplace is a broad term that includes any device, software or platform that staff members use to execute their jobs.
Cloud services, mobile and artificial intelligence are important aspects of the digital workplace, as those technologies can remove geographic barriers from collaboration and processes and ensure that company information is available remotely 24/7. Common digital workplace goals include using technology to improve collaboration, employee engagement, productivity, content management and business processes.
Due to the growth of mobile, remote and bring your own device (BYOD) strategies, the concept of the digital workplace will continue to evolve. This initiative can be attributed to the generation turnover, exponentially growing data and the fast-paced work culture.
Examples of digital workplace initiatives
The digital workplace exists on a spectrum of digital transformation and can include initiatives such as:
- Implementing a paperless office, which focuses on replacing paper processes with digital workflows.
- Efficient information tools, such as cloud file sharing and electronic archives.
- Records managementsoftware that can forward reports to the correct repository and replace the physical filing process.
- Conference room booking or video conferencing
- Online calendars that can be synced to multiple accounts or platforms.
- Single-sign on (SSO) features.
- Digital team collaboration tools, such as instant messaging.
Benefits and drawbacks of the digital workplace
The shift from paper to digital offers the potential for labor-saving automation and other innovations, as well as a better work-life balance for employees who can work remotely. For example, an environmental inspection office could replace paper reports with applications enabling inspectors to produce and file reports remotely with mobile devices. This eliminates physical handling of the report and enables the home office to potentially see real-time data and respond while the inspector is still on site.
Digital workplace initiatives can also benefit business intelligence efforts, as most digital processes automatically create a record of activity that can be fed into data visualization and analytics models to help measure the effectiveness of operations.
Digital workplaces also enable companies to downsize their physical footprint; therefore, reducing operational costs, as processes such as document storage and employee collaboration are replaced. Additionally, surveys have proven that effective digital workplaces can attract more talent, increase individual productivity and increase employee retention.
However, the digital workplace has its drawbacks. While there are platforms to help facilitate virtual collaboration, social interaction can suffer when employees are not physically in the same room, making collaboration efforts less effective. Moreover, having processes digitized and information stored on a remote server can create rather than solve security and compliance issues in some industries.
How to implement a digital workplace
The first step to implementing a digital workplace is to identify the technological needs of employees and the organization as a whole. Technology is a central component of digital workplace initiatives, but it also requires upfront planning for how business processes will translate to digital by implementing software with functionality that fits the task at hand and a user experience that employees are willing to embrace as part of their workday.
Once goals for the digital workplace are defined, it is important to choose technology that is intuitive to employees. For example, software should mimic the functionality of familiar applications such as social media. IT staff should be trained to keep all new initiatives updated and as agile as possible.
Lastly, digital workplaces need to be aware of evolving practices and emerging smart technology, implementing them whenever appropriate.