The workplace was once composed of a physical office space with employees working face-to-face, and through email during set hours between 9am and 5pm.
Fast forward several years and it is now the norm for employees to be working across multiple locations, hours and devices, the workforce no longer confined to a single office environment.
As these diversified workplaces emerge, the need for team-based and collaborative, digitally connected work environments becomes critical to efficiency and growth. Organisations must introduce digital workplace strategies capable of improving collaboration and communication, and enabling employees to work together effectively, regardless of location or device.
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 email, instant messaging, enterprise social media tools, intranets and portals. Most (if not all) organisations have a digital workplace.
What is important is to focus on setting up a digital workplace that helps your staff do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. It should consist of a holistic set of platforms, tools and environments for work delivered in a usable, coherent and productive way. This gives focus on the experience of the employee or the individual as well as the environment in which they work.
Your business communication tools should be a component of your overall digital workplace strategy. This will ensure the different tools you adopt
[Related Resource: Digital Workplace Infographic]
The Most Popular and Efficient Business Communications Tools You Can Start Using Now
To manage these industry changes, many leading organisations 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 transformation 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 organisation.
An intranet is a private hub that can be accessed by any authorised users within a business organisation. It is used for driving internal communication and collaboration, as well as easy access to resources. Modern intranets are often built using content management systems as they are easier for non-technical staff to manage,
In this age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and telecommuting, an intranet solution will result in a more flexible workforce and ensure all employees are working towards the same goals.
Intranets enable you to easily share company news and build an information-rich environment, accessible from any location and on any device. This makes it a great platform for cultivating a positive culture across a diverse workforce.
Homepage news feeds can be personalised for each staff member based on their team, department and/or location to ensure the most relevant news is placed front and centre for them. This can also be linked to security permissions to ensure sensitive or confidential information is only seen by a select group of people.
Intranets take this further by facilitating communication among staff working in different locations. Staff can update each other quickly and easily on their own news. They can distribute news to specific colleagues in a particular location or area of specialty, and colleagues can interact with the content and offer feedback in real-time.
You might be interested in implementing an intranet strategy if:
- You and your employees find it difficult to stay up to date with any company announcements or news
- If feels like there is a communication breakdown between departments and employees
- Important documents go missing or are buried in thousands of emails
- There is too much paperwork
- There is no clear or standard orientation policy for new employees or interns
- It's difficult to form cross functional teams to resource projects
- Your employees feel disconnected from headquarters and leadership
[Related Resource: Intranet Best Practices: Everything You Wanted to Know Blog Post]
Collaborative spaces which provide private or group messaging and chat functions are often viewed as one of the best business communication tools to keep teams working together. It’s an effective form of communication for busy employees and managers. Instant messaging makes updates on projects and general team discussion much easier.
This works well when employees or team members are spread across different geographical locations and different time zones. Files can be shared and conversations can be accessed if needed.
It can bring together management and employees and allows for an open discussion on any topic (usually set up and monitored/moderated). It can also help in knowledge dissemination and bring the workforce together, while also making it easier to find information via the search function.
Chat rooms and group messaging environments may seem the same, but the interfaces are often very different.
Slack, for example, lets you categorise conversation threads by project, topic or team in dedicated channels. These channels are similar to chat rooms. When staff enter a channel, they can see everything colleagues have posted there in one long, continuous feed including @mentions, replies, files shared, polls and so on.
Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, has a different interface. Like Slack, a channel can be created for each project, topic or team which is displayed on the left hand side. However, it features more of a compartmentalised design. With posts, files and wikis separated into separate tabs.
A good project management tool will help you plan, organise, and manage your team's projects.
One of the key issues with managing projects is they can be quite complex - involving several people, tasks and deadlines that are dependent on each other.
Most project management tools are structured in a way that visually displays how a project is progressing, making it much easier for team members to keep track of individual tasks, as well as the larger picture.
Some key components to look out for include:
- Task management including assigning tasks, automated reminders and tracking tasks
- Individual to do lists
- Visual interface through Kanban Boards, Gantt Charts etc.
- Time or deadline tracker
- Easy communication and collaboration features
- Ability to customise to your organisation's needs
An online help desk with a case tracking system enables employees and customers to submit a case or support ticket. This allows it to be assigned to the right employee and have it checked and resolved in time.
A case tracking system helps centralise customer support queries and keep track of any open issues.
Track team productivity, prioritise the most relevant and important queries and collect valuable customer feedback that can help in improving your products, services and customer relationships.
An issue tracking system is generally used in an organisation’s customer support call center to create, update and resolve reported customer issues or even issues reported by employees within the company.
An internal blog is also a good option. This is not something your customers and competitors will be able to access.
The internal blog is a place where employees can share ideas and experiences fast and in an informal fashion. Internal blog advantages can include:
- Broadcasting and highlighting an employee’s knowledge about a certain topic or area of the organisation
- Creating a searchable and permanent archive of knowledge base articles, knowledge and expertise. All the articles uploaded and published on an internal blog will stay there unless deleted manually
- It promotes open discussion and collaboration among the workforce. There are instances where some employees will be more likely to speak up in a virtual environment than face-to-face
- It connects employees across departments
- It keeps the staff up-to-date on important information and company updates
With the exponential rise in remote and hybrid working arrangements, video conferencing apps have exploded in popularity and have enabled organisations to continue operating with staff working away from the office.
They are a must have for keeping these previous office based staff connected.
Conferencing apps enable people to schedule video or audio meetings with anywhere from one person for a meeting to thousands of people for a company-wide communications update.
Video conferencing is much more engaging than standard phone calls and makes it much easier in group situations to determine who is speaking. Attendees can also share their screens and files, and for these reasons are a great alternative to face-to-face meetings with external contacts such as clients, partners and suppliers. Some video conferencing apps such as Zoom Meetings also allow you to change your background to a virtual background of your choice.
Effective communication between staff working across different locations and hours can be challenging, but it can be done.
You just need to start exploring the different technology available and decide on which is right for your organisation. Remember, you do not need to settle for one tool.
Start by choosing a tool that can become the base for your communication needs. For example, many organisations implement an intranet platform for their internal communication needs as it enables organisations to set up team workspaces, easily find staff information including areas of expertise, deliver personalised news and information to different staff members, set up security permissions to ensure the right information is read by staff with the right access levels and more. Then, they integrate other communication tools into their base platform such as Skype for Business, Facebook, YouTube and so on. This enables organisations to offer a centralised communication and information ecosystem for their staff!