The pandemic has affected the way we live and work and accelerated our transition to the digital world. In 2020, 30% of employees were working remotely, and 60% had the opportunity to combine remote and office work. Companies had to rethink their development strategies and create digital workplaces (DW) so that employees could work safely from home. Two years later, with vaccines helping to restrain the pandemic and offices reopening, organizations have to reimagine their digital environment to keep the office and remote workers connected.
So what is happening with the digital workplace in 2022 and how can managers adapt to the new realities?
The Concept of a Digital Workplace
This term has been around for over 10 years since DWG founder Paul Miller coined it. The businessman explained it as the virtual digital equivalent of a physical workplace.
It is also regarded as a business ecosystem of technologies and cloud solutions that:
- Eliminates communication barriers between departments.
- Provides remote secure access to corporate data.
- Allows you to work remotely with documentation and easily share files.
- Helps to communicate with colleagues who connect from different locations.
To build and use a digital workplace, you need a whole range of tools:
- Business applications
- Communication platforms
- Personnel management software
- Software for sharing documentation
- Cloud storage tools
- Content management systems
- Productivity tools and other technologies
Various programs and applications create the digital workplace infrastructure.
The digital workplace creates a virtual hub. Employees complete tasks, no matter where they are or what devices they are using. Expanding the boundaries of offices happens due to cloud platforms. They allow specialists to connect to their workplaces over the network.
Why Do You Need a Digital Workplace?
The digital workplace has become not so much a necessity, but a steppingstone for business development. The popularity of smartphones and the introduction of AI and digital tools have prepared people for a new format of work. There have appeared new categories of applications for communication between employees of distributed teams. The transition to the gig economy has made it possible for businesses to hire specialists from any location in the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. Consequently, businesses have had to scale up their digital workplaces at short notice. Some firms managed to reduce the transition from a couple of years to just weeks. The digital workplace has helped to keep businesses afloat amid isolation and social distancing. In a unified digital workplace infrastructure employees were able to quickly resolve important issues. They could:
- Coordinate and store documents. Before lockdowns and quarantines, employees had to personally come to their colleagues to approve and sign documents. During remote work, organizations switched to online coordination via email, instant messenger, or through special software like Power Automate.
- Schedule meetings. A unified digital workspace allows you to view the schedule of colleagues (vacation, business trips), coordinate the schedule for booking meeting rooms, and plan joint video meetings.
- Manage corporate data. Software solutions provide synchronization of data and files used remotely by several employees. Platforms ensure that every worker has up-to-date information that they can access at any time and from any device.
- Work on a flexible schedule. Fixed work hours are becoming obsolete. For enterprises, it is not the place and time of work that matter, but quality and efficiency. In the digital workplace, employees have 24/7 access to corporate tools and data.
- Find the necessary information. Often corporate data and files are stored in different systems: in the cloud, or on a server. Employees have to spend minutes/hours searching for the right document. There are no search problems in the digital workplace. Separate tools like DokoniFind help them to find files of any format from different sources.
As a result, 44% of employees began to work faster, while maintaining an optimal work-life balance. According to Statista, business leaders plan to keep at least 10% of their employees “in a remote location”. This is not surprising, because businessmen see the economic benefits of this format of work. According to the survey, 72% of US managers plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools to support hybrid workflow.
What Organizations Achieved in 2020-2021
The pandemic has forced companies to either build digital workplaces from scratch or upgrade the old ones to carry out the transition to remote work. And in 2020-2021, organizations performed a large-scale transformation of jobs. They:
- Implemented a model of work “from anywhere”. Many enterprises did not have a ready plan for how to go remote. But they quickly found point solutions on how to support hybrid workflow.
- Moved to the cloud. When the majority of employees needed to go remote, organizations had to migrate to the cloud. Specialists could not access corporate data if the data center was in the office. The cloud guarantees that employees will work smoothly: the server will not fail, and the data will not be lost.
- Expanded options for using virtual desktops (VDI). While individual contractors used VDI before the pandemic, more organizations paid attention to this service during the quarantine. Companies considered it the best option for quickly launching a remote work format. At the same time, an employer retains control over data and devices.
- Implemented tools for video conferencing. Video calls via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Cisco Webex platforms replaced traditional meetings. The culture of video communication has spread everywhere.
- Used collaboration platforms. Firms found ways to connect remote workers without sacrificing productivity or quality of work. Communication tools Trello, Slack, and Smartsheets have become an integral part of the digital workplace.
In 2020, companies implemented temporary solutions and created “drafts” of the digital workplace. By 2021, organizations had improved the format of remote work and selected the best technologies and tools. By 2022, enterprises had faced new challenges: how to improve and automate well-defined processes, taking into account the fact that employees are returning to the office.
The Digital Workplace in 2022
Over the past two years, people have become accustomed to the digital format, so many of us perceive returning to offices as leaving our comfort zone. According to a survey by the employer platform GoodHire, 68% of employees prefer to work remotely. Gartner found that companies risk losing up to 40% of their talent if they return to a traditional physical office. Therefore, 2022 is in search of a balance between remote and classical ways of working.
1. Organizations are Introducing Hybrid Work Models
In 2020-2021, organizations were creating digital workplaces so that employees could continue to work safely during the pandemic. In 2022, managers are trying to support DW so that employees can opt for a hybrid work schedule, combining work from home and the office.
Gartner researchers advise rescheduling work for a hybrid model, taking into account the following points. It is important to:
- Give employees more freedom and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between work and leisure
- Offer specialists several schedules, taking into account their preferences
- Manage employees based on empathy
Digital workplaces support hybrid workflows through conference room booking tools, meeting platforms, or collaboration apps.
2. Companies Launch Employee Development Programs
The pandemic has taken many organizations aback as employees were not technically prepared for digital workplaces. Firms had to quickly train specialists so that they could continue to work remotely. Therefore, in 2022, companies are helping their employees to remain flexible and adapt to changing market conditions. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation notes that 13% of Americans do not have the digital skills needed for the 21st century. 18% of people have limited skills. Therefore, organizations need to improve the skills of employees according to corporate programs.
3. Businesses are Strengthening their Cybersecurity Strategies
A centralized digital workplace makes it easier for employees to work but leaves the organization vulnerable to cyber threats. DW has many access points that hackers can use to steal corporate data. Remote tracking of devices is difficult, and remote workers are less protected from phishing and social engineering attacks. Therefore, organizations are strengthening cybersecurity strategies by improving such features as encryption, two-factor authentication, access control, and AI-assisted threat detection.
4. Managers are Looking for Ways to Increase the Engagement of Remote Workers
When, with the onset of the pandemic, employees switched to a remote format, they began to lose contact with their colleagues and felt disconnected from the organization. Despite all the benefits of the digital workplace, the advantages are leveled if the employee’s interest falls. Therefore, in 2022, managers are looking for options on how to strengthen healthy relationships with remote workers. And this is important because an engaged specialist will not quit and work 21% more productively. The digital workplace should be organized in such a way that people communicate seamlessly with colleagues using different services.
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, in an interview with Recode, noted that by 2025, about 70% of employees will work remotely for at least five days a month. Therefore, the introduction and development of DW become not a tactical, but a strategic decision. Market Research Engine predicts the digital workspace market will reach $39.60 billion with a CAGR of 30%.
In 2020, we witnessed the historic transition from traditional work culture to a digital workplace. It has brought mobility to the lives of employees, helping them to maintain a comfortable work-life balance. For organizations, this means more productive employees who are free to adjust their schedules. Businesses should continue to invest in the digital workplace because it is an important part of any business development strategy.