The concept of going into a hub office for work every day was already on shaky ground due to the growing availability and use of remote work tools – and then COVID-19 obliterated it. In addition to this work-from-home transition, different generations of workers have different workplace expectations.
As shifts both rapid and gradual continue to demand change, organisations must consider how to adapt in ways that best serve all concerned. This will include new ways of working and the digital learning tools that will make this possible.
The ‘digital workplace’ is an idea that has typically grown along with the pace of technology, but it has taken on greater significance and speed in recent months out of necessity.
The most basic concept is a virtual space where employees can go to communicate and collaborate. It started long ago with email, and now it’s a fully immersive collaborative environment – you might not ever see your colleagues in person.
Today, the digital workplace is anything that you were doing in a physical environment that’s brought into an online collaboration system.
A digital workplace must be these three things to be successful:
- Inclusive: It needs to be usable for all employees. For example, Microsoft Teams recently added closed captioning to meetings. Adding this feature creates inclusiveness of the entire employee population so that those with hearing disabilities aren’t left out. It may seem like a simple thing, but it has a significant impact.
- User friendly and intuitive: It should provide the tools appropriate for each business user. If the barrier to entry is too great – if you can’t find the right tool that you need and it’s too complicated – people won’t use the solution.
- Extensible: It must be able to add business apps in the collaborative workplace. It needs to provide all of the communication tools that a user would need to collaborate with other users.
One primary facet of the digital workplace is that workers are constantly connected. They can access digital workspaces by smartphone or other personal or company-issued devices at any time. The best way to innovate and to solve problems is to collaborate.
So then, a significant advantage of embracing the digital workspace is an increase in efficiency and productivity within the workforce. Best-in-class collaboration tools will have these three characteristics:
- Agility: The tool must work the way employees prefer to work. It needs to provide the tools business users need without forcing them down a specific pathway where they have to follow a certain workflow.
- Expansion: The digital platform you choose must have the foundational tools your organisation needs but also have capabilities to extend to additional applications. You need to see what type of third-party applications are available in a digital platform so that you can bolt onto it and add additional features and functionalities to support the business.
- Video call capability: It is critically important for people to see each other and use various tools together. In the meeting space itself, you want to make sure people have the necessary tools to efficiently conduct digital meetings, like the ability to take notes, control attendees, mute them and so on.
Return-on-investment can’t happen if employees don’t know about or don’t want to use your new digital workplace solution. Not only does it need to be user friendly and intuitive, but users need to be made aware of the tools at their disposal.
It’s critical that employees have access to robust learning tools so they can use collaborative technology and understand what types of resources are available to them – that’s crucial. Yet training on these tools is often overlooked within organisations – or it’s thought of only in terms of onboarding new staff.
As this process unfolds, workers will need a helping hand. Not all employees react to change in the same manner; it’s vitally important to understand this. Some thrive on it, while others shrink from it.
The fear of change is present in all people to one degree or another, so change management is in order when introducing new digital tools. Coincidentally, digital team and collaboration tools help facilitate change by making communication and training easy and engaging throughout the organisation.
Training and development are also shifting, offering more options to learners. People regularly partake in bite-sized learning in the form of daily news recaps, ‘Learn a New Word a Day’ emails and other micro-learning opportunities.
This proves that learning can become a fixed part of an employee’s day with easy access to the information they require. This is made possible with today’s learning platforms, enabling workers to take part in anytime, anywhere training as it fits into the flow of their day.
COVID-19 has likely changed the workplace forever. Organisations were at various stages of preparedness for mandatory remote work, but digital collaboration tools make it possible for all. These tools empower organisations to stay up and running while employees go about their jobs as productively as if they were in the office.
Choose your tools carefully, though, because they are not all equal. The best practices noted above will help you choose the solutions that uniquely suit your workforce.