All the gear and no idea: getting to grips with the digital workplace

03 July 2023

“Work from anywhere.” Airbnb’s stance on remote working is largely seen as progressive in the face of industry stalwarts like JP Morgan battling to get people back in the office.  But as good as this flexibility sounds, we need to ask ourselves – is our digital workplace really fit for purpose? Or do we just have all the gear and no idea?

The digital workplace is a concept coined by Paul Miller, founder of Digital Workplace Group, in 2009. It reimagines the workplace away from our outdated, traditional understanding that focuses on the physical environment, and instead articulates the building blocks of our modern workplace: user data, applications and collaborative tools etc. “The digital workplace encompasses 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. It ranges from your HR applications and core business applications to email, instant messaging and enterprise social media tools and virtual meeting tools” – Deloitte, 2012.

Despite the technological advancements we have witnessed, there is still a significant gap in investment when it comes to enhancing employees’ online experiences. A 2022 report by PwC aptly described the relationship between individuals and their digital tools as ‘complicated.’ In fact, a staggering 65% of C-suite executives expressed frustration with the technology they use in their daily work. Moreover, another study revealed that 39% of participants expressed concerns about not receiving adequate training in digital and technology skills from their employers. This figure was even higher among younger respondents.

At 106 we regularly bring together senior leaders in Internal Communications, and this topic was the main course with a side of frustration. Many concurred that improving connectivity across the workforce could be achieved by dedicating the same time and energy to a digital workplace induction as is typically invested in onboarding employees into a physical workplace.

Enhancing the digital workplace offers far-reaching advantages beyond just granting employees increased flexibility. By bolstering connectivity, particularly in the case of global organisations or those with a prominent frontline presence, organisations can effectively dismantle existing silos, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation across teams. The outcome? A substantial boost in productivity, not only at an individual level but also at the scale of entire teams and organisations.

Consider this eye-opening statistic: a recent study revealed that a staggering 73% of remote workers waste more time grappling with tech issues compared to their on-site counterparts, who benefit from the immediate support of in-person tech teams (22%), wasting up to an average of 3 hours week. Clearly, investing in an improved digital experience for employees can yield significant productivity gains and eliminate unnecessary obstacles along the way.

Tips for getting your organisation’s digital real-estate up to scratch…

  • Conduct a thorough audit of your current digital tools to gain insights into their usage patterns among employees. Understand when, why, and how they are being used to identify areas for improvement.
  • Develop a clear digital strategy that aligns technology investments and digital transformation initiatives with your business objectives. Ensure that your investments are aimed at driving tangible business value and achieving desired outcomes.
  • Establish a comprehensive blueprint or roadmap that outlines how different tools and platforms interact and complement each other. This creates a more cohesive and coordinated digital experience for employees.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing and establish best practices within your organisation. Foster a collaborative environment where employees can learn from one another, leveraging the expertise and comfort levels of different individuals with various digital tools.
  • Prioritise effective onboarding processes to ensure that new employees understand the purpose and usage of each digital tool and platform from the outset. This improves connectivity and engagement right from the beginning of their journey with the company.
  • Continuously seek feedback from your teams to refine and enhance the digital workplace experience. Recognise that creating an effective and enjoyable digital environment is an iterative process that should evolve and adapt in alignment with your organisation’s growth and evolving needs.

As Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, states “the office as we know it is over”.

If that’s true for you, then it’s time to change the workplace paradigm and invest as much in the digital workplace and training as we do for the physical.





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