5 min read
What is a digital workplace? Misconceptions + advice
A “digital workplace” is the collection of hardware and software tools you use to get your work done. Through advancements like computers, cloud storage, and video conferencing, the digital workplace is helping companies and employees perform better than ever before.
How the digital workplace is misunderstood
While many claim that the digital workplace is just the virtual version of the traditional physical workplace, it’s not—it’s better. By leveraging technology, we’re able to complete processes faster and more effectively than ever before. For example, parcel delivery service GLS once had many pen-and-paper processes for communication. By switching to Flip to streamline communication into one mobile app, 47% of employees and partners have been able to save time. The digital workplace, when done right, will improve your job.
Digital workplaces need not be 100% virtual; they can be a blend of the digital and the physical. For example, Microsoft's Digital Employee Experience and Global Workplace Services teams collaborated on creating a digital workplace for the hybrid work model, one that accommodated both in-person and remote employees. They created “focus rooms” with wall-mounted screens, web cameras, and good lighting to ensure an optimal meeting experience regardless of whether attendees join remotely or in person.
And let’s clear up some misconceptions:
- The digital workplace is not just for remote teams. Just because it’s called “digital” doesn’t mean it’s completely digital. Even on-site employees participate in the digital workplace, such as when they use Slack to message coworkers or when they open up Gmail to check their email.
- The digital workplace is not exclusive to the tech industry or desk workers. In this day and age, it's for every sector. There are digital workplaces in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and even construction. Every sector benefits from leveraging technology to make their jobs more efficient.
- The digital workplace is not one piece of expensive software. What’s great about the digital workplace is that it’s flexible; you get to pick and choose which apps to use to make your workflows better. There are a lot of companies hawking their “digital workplace software,” but in reality, you can bundle various software to create your own (and it doesn’t have to be pricey).
Some digital workplace examples include:
- Shift planning. Allowing employees to see the schedule and swap shifts with coworkers via a mobile app.
- Internal communications. Enabling instant messaging on employee smartphones.
- Remote collaboration. Coworkers in various locations collaborate on an online document.
- Digital signage. Safety reminders and news updates being broadcast on monitors all across the warehouse.
- Online payroll. HR software that ensures employees get paid on time.
Is a digital workplace the same thing as an intranet?
We won’t get too in-depth on the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace in this article, but suffice it to say that while an intranet can be part of a digital workplace, a digital workplace is so much more than an intranet.
An intranet is an organization's private network that's accessible only to authorized users (usually employees). Think of an intranet as a "private internet." Because it's private and built specifically for your organization, it can be more secure and customizable.
It is, however, usually much more time-intensive to build and requires IT help. For that reason, many companies have moved toward using a suite of apps to create their own digital workplace, including employee apps. They’re much faster to implement and don’t require coding or on-premise servers.
How do you create a digital workplace?
“If your staff respond to e-mails from smartphones, check their pay stubs online or digitally enter a sales opportunity, you may be closer to operating a digital workplace than you think.”
Pretty much every organization already has a digital workplace (it’s all the tech tools they use to do their work). But not every organization has a digital workplace created with a strategy in mind, so you can probably still do a lot to optimize yours.
Here’s how you can create a digital workplace that increases employee productivity and achieves your business goals.
1. Assess your current tech tools and workflows.
Take inventory of every tool you’re currently using. What’s working? What’s not? Conduct focus groups and employee surveys to listen to what your people need. One thing that might surprise you is that your employees might have already put together their own set of personal apps that they’ve been using to communicate with, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
2. Decide on goals and success metrics.
This is a key question in developing your digital workplace strategy: How will you know you've succeeded? Meet with stakeholders to decide on the goals for a digital workplace and outline the metrics you will use to measure success. This could be usage, employee engagement, job satisfaction, or productivity.
3. Map the tech tools to the identified needs.
Now that you have your needs assessment, explore options for digital workplace tools that you could use to meet those needs. If you have a lot of manual or pen-and-paper tools, research digital alternatives to streamline those processes.
You now have a list of digital workplace tools you're interested in investing in, such as software (a productivity app, for example), hardware (such as headsets and cameras for video conferencing), or maybe even an intranet. From here, narrow down your options.
4. Get buy-in.
To create a digital workplace, you’ll need to get buy-in from two key stakeholder groups: operations/digital transformation teams and IT. Getting buy-in is always a challenge, but as long as you come prepared with the payoffs and the potential ROI, it’ll go well.
Your IT team is mainly concerned with security and how they’ll build and implement any tech tools you’re interested in adopting. Your operations and digital transformation teams are concerned with ROI. They’ll want to know price points and why this will be worth it. You need to show them numbers (ask for case studies from your potential software vendors).
If you’re using SaaS tools, implementation of your digital workplace should be fairly fast and straightforward. If you’ve opted for building an intranet, expect more time, as it’s a more involved process.
6. Track metrics and gauge progress.
The digital workplace tools you've chosen should come with an analytics dashboard to show your usage and performance. Check these metrics frequently to track progress and ensure the digital tool is working well for your team. Pay attention to usage and engagement metrics.
7. Tweak and repeat!
Just as technology evolves constantly, so too should your digital workplace. You might adopt one tool and find that your employees don’t enjoy using it. Don’t be afraid to try something new until you nail the right one.
Is there such a thing as a digital workplace app?
Again, there are many software companies that advertise an all-in-one “digital workplace platform,” but in reality, a digital workplace comprises all the hardware and software you use to get your job done. One app is unlikely to be the only app you use across your entire workflow.
That being said, if you’re looking for a digital workplace app, consider an employee app that can enable a more powerful digital workplace that connects all of your employees, whether they're in the office, at home, or on the road.
Flip is an employee app built specifically for the frontline; it’s mobile-first, meaning a factory manager, construction worker, or retail cashier can easily access news, shift schedules, and instant messaging from their smartphones. And the best part? It can enhance your other digital workplace tools, such as your company intranet.