We’ve seen a gradual rise in remote working over the years. But this has exploded with the recent crisis. In its wake, we've seen the subsequent rise of the digital workplace, with organisations scrambling to put together the basic connectivity, collaboration and processes for their staff to work remotely from home.
While most of your staff will eventually go back to working in the office, this should be the wakeup call your organisation needs to start future proofing your operations against inevitable disruptions.
Whether you require staff to work from home, on the road, at client offices, on the frontline or simply away from head office, it’s time to start thinking more strategically about what must be done to effectively support your remote workforce. Of course, this also benefits your head office staff who likely deal with manual and inefficient processes and tools on a daily basis.
Rather than an ad hoc approach, look at implementing a holistic digital workplace framework with the right people, processes and technology to deliver an exceptional experience for everyone - from head office to remote employees.
In this blog post, we explore 6 key areas not to overlook when setting up, optimising and improving your digital workplace. This will help you deliver a great digital experience to combat social isolation, low morale and disengagement, while boosting collaboration, communication and productivity within your organisation.
1. Start With Your People
Chances are you’ve set up the core connectivity and basic collaboration tools staff need to start working remotely, such as Office 365, a virtual conferencing app, an instant messaging platform and access to shared drives via VPN. Now it's time to dig deeper and effectively support your remote workforce long-term.
Find representatives across your organisation to gather insights. At minimum, talk to the head of different departments and/or locations.
Use these requirements gathering sessions to introduce new features and tools, build new information hubs that might now need to be available, as well as create or improve procedures and processes for remote workers.
For example, how will training work in each department if it’s no longer face-to-face? Do you need to move to an online learning system? Will you incorporate an on-demand learning centre? How will you onboard a workforce effectively when they work in remote locations – can each department still cope using existing tools or will you need something more sophisticated like an induction portal?
2. Put in Place a Strategy
Use the feedback from your staff to understand what their challenges and goals are, as well as what information, tools, systems and people they need access to - and then document this into a strategy and plan to guide you.
Here’s what your digital workplace strategy should include:
The best way to track whether you're seeing the true benefits of improving your digital workplace is by creating SMART goals.
For example, if your objective is to increase efficiency, your SMART goal might be to reduce emails sent internally by 25% within the first 6 months, by making policies, procedures and forms accessible on a centralised interface, on any smart device.
Culture and change management
What change management is in place to support better the adoption and use of digital tools and processes in your organisation?
If your existing culture is resistant to digital, they will eventually ignore anything new, in favour of existing and outdated processes and tools. Some employees may embrace digital change, but they might not have the skills or your organisation might not have provided them with the strategies, initiatives and operating models necessary to realise the full potential that digital platforms offer.
For further reading, check out the blog post 'How to Create a Digital Culture that Embraces Transformation'.
Who will manage tools, processes and information, and is there an escalation point of contact that is known to all staff? Do you have a continuity or contingency place e.g. how-to-guides or a next in command, if the person responsible leaves or is absent due to sickness?
For further reading, check out the blog post 'Intranet Governance Best Practices'.
Over time, processes and tools should change to better meet the needs of and improve the experience for staff. What can be automated? Is there a gap between needs and what is available?
Based off the requirements gathered, your budget and resources, you should have a good idea of what people must have vs. what they should have in the future vs. what would be nice to have but is optional.
For further reading, check out our blog post, 'Communication Tools Used in Modern Day Business'.
3. Personalise Where Appropriate
Depending on how large your workforce is, you need to decide if information and communication is going to be personalised or not. If so, does it make sense for it to be personalised by roles, departments, locations and so on?
For example, staff working remotely probably don’t want to be reminded of the amazing team lunch they missed out on. Nor do head office staff need to have their interfaces cluttered with documents and policies for those who work in regional offices.
In these scenarios, it’s best to tailor information and tools to their roles.
Think about who should access each feature or folder. With an intranet as the foundation of your digital workplace, you can set user permissions so that only administrators or departments or groups have access to certain features, documents, folders and other information. This will stop staff from feeling overwhelmed by content, as well as allow your organisation to protect sensitive or confidential information.
4. Make Security and Authentication a Priority
How are you managing staff identities? Through one system such as Active Directory, or multiple systems for different offices and locations? If so, this is the time to consolidate your systems to make it easier to manage incoming, existing and outgoing staff.
Digital workplaces with single sign-on (SSO) capabilities provide streamline and seamless access to tools staff need. Your one identity management system can (and should) be used to provide SSO to different systems, whether it be your intranet, learning portal, CRM and so forth, so staff don’t have to remember different passwords, and staff accounts can be automatically and manually removed from integrated third party systems.
Also consider what security protocols you have in place, particularly for staff who work remotely and need to use cloud technology to access what they need e.g. two-factor authentication and an approved list of secure apps staff can use. Almost as importantly, this needs to be documented and communicated to all staff.
For further reading, check out the blog post, 'Getting Authorisation Right for an Integrated, Single Sign-on Web Portal'.
5. Check Back in Regularly
Needs and requirements will change over time. Make sure to check back in a week, a month, quarterly and so on.
Staff might not encounter challenges until they perform specific tasks weeks after you first talk to them. Regularly ask them what pain points they’re encountering - what do they want and need that the organisation is capable of assisting with? This is a great way to determine if additional training should be introduced to get new and existing remote staff up to speed with procedures, processes and tools (guides, training courses, videos and so on).
You can collect feedback via anonymous surveys with a standalone tool such as Survey Monkey or a consolidated system such as the online forms and workflow automation component of your intranet CMS. If you have the availability, one-on-one meetings are a great way to gather more in-depth insights as staff may not realise they are performing a task inefficiently or differently than the recommended way.
Keep an eye on whether staff have started using unapproved apps or devices, which may pose a security risk for your organisation. Do you have the proper infrastructure in place? If you do, has this been ignored or not communicated to staff correctly? If so, you may need to involve department heads or managers to explicitly communicate to their direct reports.
For example, if you’re a Microsoft Windows based organisation and several staff members use Apple based laptops at home, what tools and applications are they using? Have they switched from Microsoft Word to Google Docs? What screen sharing/recording app are they using? Are they using public wifi and need information on avoiding data breaches?
6. Align Expectations of Staff
Most organisations tend to focus on two pillars an effective digital workplace: the tools and the processes. However, the people component is just as important, if not more so.
Part of this is ensuring you align expectations of staff:
- with their roles
- with their teams
- and with the organisation itself.
This can be tricky when you are dealing with a remote workforce.
You will need to create new structures and processes. For example, additional meetings might be needed e.g. as morning briefings, one to ones and/or daily wrap ups. This shouldn’t be focused on having managers ‘checking up’ on what staff are doing and micro-managing them, but rather on ensuring they’re working towards meeting their goals and objectives, as well as keeping them in the loop; managers need to be accountable and transparent with staff and let them know what’s happening as well!
Also think about what additional information they need to align expectations with the team. For example, working core hours (where possible) so they’re easily reachable or making sure their instant messaging account is marked as away if they’re away from their laptops, as well as facilitating digital collaboration in the workplace. Remember, when staff are across other projects, tasks and documents other teams are working on, it can help them feel connected to the organisation, as well as avoid any duplicated effort on their part.
Finally, there should be a commitment from department heads and/or leadership to regularly communicate goals, visions, product offerings, market news, customers, staff, successes and failures, in order to build an open and transparent organisation. You can help this along by ensuring all these stakeholders have a central and easy-to-use interface such as a news platform to deliver this information.
For further reading, check out the blog posts, 'Using Team Workspaces with Social Features to Improve Collaboration & Productivity' and 'How to Prepare for Digital Workspace Success'.
Digital transformation in the workplace can no longer be ignored.
If you find yourself needing to support a large number of staff working from home, we recommend you join us for our upcoming webinar, as we explore how you can foster confidence and engagement in your workforce. You'll walk away with actionable steps to support your distributed workforce in a more meaningful and impactful way.