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Understanding the Digital Workplace: 5 Questions and Answers

Posted by Charlotte Foglia

digital workplace

Approximately 40% of the workforce in most countries is able to work remotely. This became a necessity when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to stay in their homes. But being able to work remotely and experiencing a well constructed digital workplace aren’t exactly the same thing.

Understand the difference with our five digital workplace questions and answers below.

What is a digital workplace, exactly?

At its most basic level, a digital workplace is the virtual equivalent of the physical workplace. But this, of course, is a gross oversimplification. Evolving from the tangible spaces and systems that dominated our work lives for the last century to an interconnected and seamless online experience is about more than just ‘digitizing things’.

Deloitte says it’s the “natural evolution of the workplace, encompassing all the technologies people use to get work done in today’s workplace – both the ones in operation and the ones yet to be implemented”. This rightly implies that the digital workplace is in constant motion, ever changing as technology and business needs shift.

Gartner defines the digital workplace as a “business strategy to boost employee engagement and agility through a more consumerized work environment.” This one’s interesting. It talks about how the end benefit of a digital workplace is to empower employees to work more efficiently. By “consumerized work environment”, Gartner is saying that the technology that drives digital transformation needs to be as simple and user friendly as the apps and UIs we know and love in our personal lives.

Here at Sinequa, we believe a key part of the digital workplace equation is access to information. A high-functioning digital workplace enables collaborators to easily find the information, knowledge, applications, and people they need in order to work successfully.

What are the benefits of a digital workplace?

A digital workplace has obvious advantages, like decentralizing operations and reducing overhead and risk. And without the geographic limitation of a corporate office building, it also opens the door to attracting talent from anywhere.

But, as Gartner says, the true benefit of the digital workplace is an improved employee experience. Things like no commute, less friction throughout the workday, the ability to work when and how you work best (goodbye 9-5) can all be huge morale boosters and motivators.

Making it easy for employees to find what they need is also a big part of a successful digital workplace. Today, McKinsey data shows that employees spend as much as 20% of their time searching for information. A digital workplace that employs technology that makes it easy to find information across systems, formats, and languages can save employees hours of time and frustration.

That time savings translates into increased employee productivity. The ability to find the right information leads to better insights and more success in their roles. It also frees employees to do less routine work and more creative work, which ultimately leads to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

How do you integrate a digital workplace?

The digital workplace has evolved over the years to include a massive web of technologies. Sharepoint sites, employee collaboration software, customer management systems, business-specific applications, and many more all enable our remote workdays. Each houses valuable data and information, but it can only be surfaced by searching within each separately.

To break down these silos, businesses need secure technology that enables collaboration and access to information. This is where intelligent enterprise search comes in.

Let’s look at a call center example. The average call center agent has to use from 4 to as many as 15 different applications in order to get the customer information they need. That’s a chaotic, frustrating, time consuming experience.

With an intelligent search solution, an agent could search a customer’s name and instantly get a 360-degree customer view, including relevant documents, previous call center transactions, chatbot interactions, payment history, etc. This not only reduces the time it takes to serve a customer, but also the number of systems an agent has to learn.

To create a positive enterprise search experience like the example above, clearly understanding the use case(s) of the digital workplace is paramount – what kinds of information is needed, where does it live, how will it be used, and how should it be presented? Collaboration between IT, employees, and management, along with clear guidance and procedures are also key to successfully implementing enterprise search and integrating the digital workplace.

How do you control digital workplace productivity?

Digital transformation requires serious time and resources. To build the most effective digital workplace, it’s vitally important that there are clear goals and objectives driving the effort. It should be easy to explain to the C-suite how each change will impact the business—if it isn’t, reconsider whether it’s truly in line with your goals.

With a clear vision and strategy, you can then work with your collaborators across disciplines to map out how the digital workplace will improve employee engagement in their respective areas. What is needed to reduce routine work and foster creativity and teamwork? How will this impact current processes, organizational structure, and culture? Understanding how employees actually work (not how executives think they work) is crucial in this stage to build a roadmap that will have a real and measurable impact.

Since the end goal is to improve the employee experience, be sure to mitigate employee stress about the transition with training, and by communicating the rules and best practices. Set clear and measurable objectives and identify the analytics you’ll need to monitor performance, for example, tracking time spent in collaboration tools, assessing satisfaction via employee surveys, working with HR on employee retention data, etc.

Why is it so important now?

In December of 2019, Gartner predicted that by 2024 in-person meetings will drop from 60% of enterprise meetings to 25%, driven by remote work and changing workforce demographics. Fast forward to March 2020, when four years of digital workplace evolution happened in about 30 days.

When lockdowns were imposed, everyone who could work remotely, did. Industries and companies that thought they weren’t able to function digitally discovered that they, in fact, could.

But the quickened pace of digital transformation has led to a lot of band-aid solutions. As it becomes clear that will be no return to “normal”, companies are now fully invested in a building a complete digital workplace. In fact, a McKinsey survey conducted in June showed that 85% of respondents have “somewhat or greatly accelerated the implementation of technologies that enable employee interaction and collaboration.” This is good news for employees who have also been asked to adapt must faster than anticipated.

Today more than ever, the digital workplace is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have. The companies that can successfully evolve will see happier employees, increased productivity, and long-term growth.