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Understanding The Digital Workplace

We are now in an age where the workplace isn't just a physical space occupied by employees during office hours. Today’s workplace is an always connected environment providing instant access to everything employees need. The lines between the physical office and the place where the work actually happens are becoming blurred, as is the distinction between personal and professional lives.

As the workplace becomes digital the whole workforce and upper management can communicate and collaborate in many new and effective ways. The ability to combine productive business relationships beyond the natural work groups enables knowledge sharing across the organization. 

digital meeting

To manage these industry changes, many leading organizations in business and government have implemented a digital workplace strategy. By intelligently combining the technologies that many businesses already use, the digital workplace has broken down the communication barriers and is transforming employee experience to one promoting efficiency, growth and innovation. The key to success, however, depends on the implementation of a digital workplace strategy - requiring one that is capable of driving true change within the organization.

The accelerated change in the last 10 years is due to the emergence of 3 trends:

  1. An ageing workforce. As baby boomers continue to retire, they are taking much of the knowledge with them, which is a dilemma because their experience and knowledge are important in laying the foundations for future professionals.
  2. Information overload. The word here is Big Data. Since 2015 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. As information continues to grow at exponential rates, many businesses and employees find it difficult to find what they need, when they need it.
  3. Need for speed. With the fast-paced work environment today, employees are required to work faster and collaborate more effectively to get their jobs done and meet deadlines. Intranets have been very successful in this particular area, and digital workplaces are just the next step.

And as the workplace demographics continue to shift, businesses and employers are struggling to meet the different needs of a multi-generational workforce. The use of smart mobile devices and the internet continue to grow and the pace of change continues to accelerate. These changes are further exacerbated by the continued demands for increased productivity and cutting of unnecessary costs - making it hard for businesses to meet market expectations. These trends contribute to reshaping the work environment. Many say that it’s a long overdue transformation. Under a digital workplace approach, the new focus shifts to how the business can help their staff work more efficiently and how the hundreds of enterprise tools can fit together as one cohesive unit.

What Is A Digital Workplace?

While the digital workplace is now driving a wide range of projects across many industries, the concept is still emerging. There are many definitions of the digital workplace and some are all encompassing, while others focus on specific facets of the concept. The digital workplace can be considered the natural evolution of the workplace. It encompasses all of the technologies staff use to do their jobs. This can range from the HR applications and core business applications to e-mail, instant messaging, enterprise social media tools, intranets and portals.

The digital workplace is so broad that it needs to avoid the trap of focusing on a current set of technologies. One definition states that a digital workplace consists of a holistic set of platforms, tools and environments for work delivered in a usable, coherent and productive way. This definition gives focus on the experience of the employee or the individual as well as the environment in which they work. A good digital workplace can be tailored to what your organization needs it to be.

From the Step Two definition James Robertson goes on to explore a few aspects of this definition:

Holistic – the digital workplace should go beyond the intranet and its related applications and tools, covering all personal productivity tools, connectivity, business systems and the physical workplace.

Coherent – at any given point in time, there are countless projects underway in a large organization. These projects can often overlap and cause confusion. Components of a digital workplace should be coordinated to deliver productive and meaningful results for every project. Resource allocation might be necessary.

Usable – your employees already have great capabilities at their fingertips, if they only knew and understood how to use them. A digital workplace delivers seamless and simple user experiences that can match actual working practices and employee behaviors.

Productive – personal productivity is placed at the center of the digital workplace thanks to the tools, platforms and supported environments all structured around helping employees to do their job.

Why You Need To Adopt A Digital Workplace?

If the risk of inaction is not enough of a motivator for you, the benefits of adopting a digital workplace can make a compelling business case. Consider the advantages - according to Deloitte:
  1. Attracting talent. 64% of employees would choose a lower paying job if they could work away from the office
  2. Employee productivity. Organizations with strong online social networks are 7% more productive compared to organizations without 
  3. Employee satisfaction. Organizations that rolled out and installed social media tools internally found that there was a 20% increase in employee satisfaction.
  4. Retention of employees. When employee engagement goes up, there is a corresponding increase in employee retention of up to 78%.
  5. Communication tools. Present day workers prefer newer communication tools specifically instant messaging as compared to “traditional” tools like e-mail or team workspaces.

The widespread use of digital technologies is evident in every organization. Present day companies are made up of multigenerational workforces. At the same time, a new generation of employees is entering the workforce and with the help of different technologies increased engagement, productivity and efficiency can be achieved.

The rise of the digital workplace represents the following components:

1. Enterprise Social Networks

We have witnessed a huge cultural change in adopting different business communication tools. During their initial adoption stages, ESN or Enterprise Social Networks were often referred to as the Twitter or Facebook of the enterprise because of their reliance on microblogging features. Social collaboration has become essential for connecting business organizations today. According to Frost & Sullivan, 72% of companies are expected to deploy at least one social software tool or platform. And by 2020, there will be 639M paid users of enterprise social networks.

2. Videos

For years, the increase of internet and network speed has allowed the use videos in real time communication, and is now considered essential in running a business. Video communication plays a vital role in the multigenerational workforce because it helps them to stay engaged, productive and efficient. Video communication applications are evident all across the enterprise and can be seen in marketing, training & development, product management and the adoption of the latest communication tools.


Bring Your Own Technology, Bring Your Own Apps, Bring Your Own Device. With the availability and consumerization of IT technologies today, the present day workforce is more likely to bring their own smart devices into the office and use them for work purposes. This trend continues to grow in enterprises and employees feel more empowered to use their own devices with regulations for business purposes.

4. Becoming More Mobile

The popularity of smart mobile devices in the personal life of an employee or a manager has strong evidence in the context of purchasing, shopping, banking, education and communication. Mobile technologies also play an important role in breaking boundaries in employee communication and productivity that includes mobile online meetings, online training, video learning and others.

5. Wearables

The rise of wearables in many organizations is slowly being felt today and is now one of the biggest trends in today’s digital market. Frost and Sullivan stated that by 2020, there will be 50 billion things connected to the internet and $14.4 trillion in the IoT (Internet of Things) market. No doubt IoT will start to make its way into the office. Experts also believe that many business organizations in the future will deploy more wearable devices on the work floor. The present adoption of wearables in businesses is evident in employee safety monitoring, access control, health and wellness. A number of tech experts have predicted that smart watches will be the largest category of wearables in the future workplace followed by smart glasses and then fitness trackers. Wearables can help with collaboration and safety by providing real-time data used to make necessary business decisions.

6. Gamification

Businesses have adopted gamification in engaging the workforce through the use of their enterprise social media platforms. The number one goal of enterprise gamification is to improve employee engagement. Gamification is the application of game design techniques and mechanics into a workplace. Gamification taps the basic desires of the user’s impulse which revolve around the idea of achievement and status. According to NICE Systems, only 31% of companies are exploring or using some form of digital rewards or gaming mechanics.


A digital workplace is also important because it lowers the dependence on a physical work location. This physical freedom of work can provide important changes to how people work, but also how teams are formed and how peers can come together in solving any ad-hoc issues.

Digital Workplace Misconceptions

A digital workplace is not just a fancy re-branding of intranets. While intranets are essential to modern business processes, some digital workplaces may not be using an intranet at all. Although intranets are common and important components of a digital workplace it is not the only feature which allows for collaboration and communication. The digital workplace explores engagement on more than one platform. Certainly while digital workplaces are gaining traction in the business world, intranets are a popular platform on which to encourage engagement, facilitate knowledge sharing throughout an organization and increase employee morale. A typical digital workplace would bring together the highly functional intranet of an organization and extend it to include more applications, easier communication and streamlined corporate strategies.

The Framework Of A Digital Workplace

While there’s no hard rules involved when designing a digital workplace, best practices are followed. In 2011 Deloitte Canada produced an extensive framework for the Digital Workplace, which is still useful today and recommended reading for anyone looking to better understand their own workplace. In their digital workplace framework they featured 4 layers covering the following components:

1. Connection, Collaboration and Communication

It’s no secret than an organization’s culture guides the way employees work and behave. The people and culture lie at the center of organizational performance, which normally drive the success or failure of the business. This means that your culture will determine how and to what extent your employees use and take advantage of the digital workplace and intranet platform to collaborate, connect and communicate. The key here is to understand how the workforce prefers to work. From this, you can develop a change management plan and strategize the digital workplace so that it aligns with existing infrastructure (intranets, portals and other platforms) as well as the working culture of your organization.

2. Technology Is The Digital Workplace Toolbox

All organizations have their own digital toolbox because the tools used and the platforms implemented will depend on the industry, job functions, business strategy and the goals of your digital workplace. In most organizations, the toolbox can be broadly defined into categories to support how you communicate, connect, collaborate and deliver your daily services.

remote digital workplace

3. Governance, Compliance, Control and Risk

Challenges are normal in any organization, thus when you’re creating your digital workplace, you should create a governance model that supports connectivity and collaboration while enabling compliance and mitigating tasks.

4. Measuring Business Values through Business Drivers

The digital workplace can empower your employees and direct their efforts by building communities of interest, driving knowledge management and collaborating in ways that can make sense to the employees and that deliver measurable business values. To reap the benefits, the digital workplace should address the existing challenges and provide true business value. 

In Closing

The businesses that will be successful in the future will be those who tear down the divide between people, technologies and the workplace. If there are no barriers dividing the workforce, everyone will be empowered to do their job, to be creative and productive wherever they are.

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Understanding Digital Workplaces

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