There is no denying it – the future of work is adaptable, flexible and involves the considered use of technology.
Many organisations are realising that their response to change will be vital in staying productive and relevant – and as a result, there are some clear digital workplace trends emerging. While some of these trends have been on the rise for some time, the COVID-19 crisis has without doubt accelerated their importance.
So what should organisations be factoring into their modern digital workplaces moving forward?
#1: Employee experience takes center stage
For far too long digital workplaces have been made up of fragmented employee experiences and options that can leave employees, particularly frontline workers, feeling disconnected and unsupported.
Organisations are now shifting the focus to creating a cohesive and accessible digital workplace to deliver a great employee experience – at every role and at every level.
For example, Vita Group, a publicly listed lifestyle company, built a central communications hub. Employees can access self-service options and wellness support, training via eLearning modules, knowledge base, policies and procedures, forms, and other data to complete their work. This interface links off to other systems and tools that employees use via single sign on capabilities, which automatically signs them in. Key data from third party systems and tools can also be integrated with and pulled into the central hub.
Most importantly, this hub is accessible from any location and device, which is key to delivering a great experience for their deskless retail staff who do not have access to a laptop or computer. The result is a seamless experience and a positive workplace culture, no matter how geographically dispersed a team happens to be.
Further reading: [Blog post] How to Deliver a Great Employee Experience and The Advantages of Digital Transformation for Your Employee Experience
#2. Working beyond physical boundaries
Given the impact of COVID-19 and social restrictions, it’s easy to see that having the flexibility to work from anywhere will empower organisations to stay competitive, collaborative and productive.
With lockdown restrictions easing, many organisations are now adopting a hybrid working model.
Slack's Workplace Transformation study found that the overwhelming majority of knowledge workers wanted a hybrid working arrangement, where they could work from both their home and the office or on-site.
Organisations need to rise to the challenge of effectively supporting employees that allows them to work beyond borders.
There are many new solutions now available to support work across physical boundaries. Platforms such as Sococo can visually simulate an office environment, providing a visual representation of your office space to clear up confusion about who’s available or which link to follow for a video call.
Meanwhile, modern intranet software enables the creation of team and project workspaces, where collaboration is intuitive and takes place right there on the same page.
Organisations need to continue prioritising investments that support sustained remote and hybrid work, and look at ways to simplify and integrate technology into one cohesive experience.
A healthcare organisation for example, can use a video conferencing tool to provide their staff with product training including lunch and learn sessions. All the on-demand videos can then be hosted on a section of their intranet. Using taxonomy, videos appear on other contextually relevant sections on the intranet such as an area dedicated to information about a product or service line.
Further reading: [On-demand webinar] How to Inspire Confidence and Engagement in a Distributed Workforce
#3: Virtual collaboration and communication
Digital collaboration in the workplace is another key trend that is growing in significance.
There are solutions available to replace almost every in-person office interaction now, from virtual meetings, to project workspaces, to a detailed corporate directory, to social forums that can take the place of the watercooler catch-up.
Screen sharing and file-based collaboration allows team members to work on the same project in real time. And that’s because collaboration currently is – and will continue to be – incredibly important in the modern workplace: one study found that companies which promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.
Further reading: [Blog post] 15 Essential Collaboration and Communication Platforms And Software to Use
#4: A sharper focus on strategy and roadmaps
The digital workplace has, for many organisations, replaced the central physical workplace. With the rise in the need for effective digital workplaces, organisations will need to be more strategic and proactive to ensure long-term success.
Whether you’re building a new digital workplace or optimising your existing one, having a proper digital workplace framework, strategy and roadmap in place is key to success. It’s just as important to allocate internal ongoing resources to governance, to ensure your digital workplace remains usable, central and relevant over time. This is a relatively small but vital investment to support what is an increasingly important piece of IT infrastructure within an organisation.
The good news is that more and more organisations are implementing a strategy for their digital workplace. The latest State of the Digital Workplace report from SMG & CMSWire states that the number of organisations that had a strategy or programme in place for their digital workplace had risen from 46% in 2017 to 65% in 2019 – and we expect this number is rising still.
Further reading: [Guide] How to Build a Productive and Engaged Digital Workplace
#5: Democratised and decentralised technology services
There is a clear trend towards digital workplaces that are more democratised.
Rather than relying on one or two people at head office to handle digital requirements, organisations are now choosing options with low-code and no-code development tools built right in. This allows employees from different departments to easily maintain content they have created and updated.
This might include drag and drop form fields to easily create online forms, intuitive content publishing, and simple access permissions to provide personalised content to specific users. Advanced analytics now make useful data available and interpretable to more users.
#6: Digitalisation and automation
Moving to remote working has highlighted to need to move away from manual and paper based processes that are prolonged due to employees being in different locations and no longer having access to office supplies.
Workflow management has been – and still is – a pain for many organisations, but modern digitalisation and automation solutions are now being widely embraced.
It’s now possible to set up business process automation so that once a form is filled in, it triggers a notification to the relevant person to approve. If it’s approved, it passes onto the next person in the workflow chain. If it’s rejected, it returns to the previous relevant person for revision or extra attention. Approvals, applications and forms can be digitalised and automated.
One of the key challenges for organisations will be onboarding employees remotely and getting them up to speed quickly when they’re not in the same location as their colleagues. This will lead to more organisations adopting online onboarding portals with eLearning courses, links to company information, staff directory, checklists of tasks that need to be completed and more – all accessible online and at their own convenience.
Further reading: [Blog post] How to Automate & Improve Business Processes Across Your Organisation
#7: The value in mobile apps
It’s no surprise that mobile app functionality for digital workplaces is becoming increasingly relevant and requested. It acts as a central communication hub and front door to the digital workplace for staff on the go.
Employees can receive instant alerts on their phone screen (push notifications) for urgent or important updates; access contact information and central data while they’re away from their desks; submit work related information as part of their jobs such as timesheets and, access self-service areas such as up-to-date rosters and forms, for better productivity all round.
For example, Workforce Guardian, a leading HR and employment relations service, built a mobile app for their online HR portal system. This allows employees to quickly fill in timesheets, check rosters and perform other tasks quickly on their mobiles.
We can expect mobile access to become even more important as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is becoming the new norm in many workplaces. Bring Your Own Thing (BYOT) could also bring wearable watches, voice assistants, smart earbuds and headsets into the ‘mobile’ sphere.
#8: Getting smart about integration
Many employees are feeling login fatigue – and for good reason. Netskope research finds that the average enterprise uses a whopping 1,181 cloud app services (92.7% of which are not enterprise-ready).
Organisations are increasingly looking to develop a central digital workplace using their intranet as the 'front door' and integrate essential third-party functionality for that seamless, single-login solution.
For example, files hosted on the file management system, SharePoint, can be displayed on contextually relevant sections on the intranet such as the ‘Hybrid Working Corner’ and can be edited straight from the intranet interface. This can have a raft of benefits including faster development even from non-technical teams, improved employee experiences and accelerated time to value.
#9: Data and security
Of course, these modern digital workplaces can bring modern risks, ranging from hacking and data breaches to sophisticated email scams, as more staff work from home using their personal devices.
Deloitte’s Cyber Intelligence Centre noticed a spike in phishing and ransomware attacks where COVID-19 was used as bait. Google’s Threat Analysis Group also detected over 240 million spam messages per day related to the pandemic.
Organisations are in the process of stepping up their security processes, including two-factor authentication, BYOD-appropriate security, meticulous security permissions, compliance factors and regular prompts for users to update passwords. For example, intranets enable organisations to access permissions management with detailed control over what different roles can and cannot do within the system.
The cost of ignoring these risks can be steep: in 2020 a data breach can cost an Australian company an average of $3.35 million, according to the latest IBM research.
There will also be an increasing need for organisations to provide resource and training for employees on how to best avoid data and security risks. Investment will be made in eLearning and cybersecurity knowledge bases.
Further reading: [Blog post] Getting Authorisation Right for an Integrated Single Sign-On Portal
#10: Making the most of artificial intelligence
While we can’t stop working and let robots take over (yet!), organisations are now enjoying the productivity advantages of more accessible and affordable artificial intelligence in the workplace.
The latest State of the Digital Workplace report from SMG & CMSWire found that AI and machine learning have the most impact in their organisation when it comes to automating simple, repeatable processes (28%) and helping employees find content, people and apps they need for their roles (25%).
Chatbots have provided extra support to overwhelmed support services.
Smart email scheduling allows meetings to be booked automatically, saving employees valuable minutes for every invite.
And the proliferation of virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Now holds further promise for more efficient emailing, accounting and scheduling.
Build a productive digital workplace
To remain competitive, organisations must create a connected and collaborative work environment, accessible from any location and device – or risk being left behind.
In this guide, we share a framework for building a productive and engaged digital workplace. You'll discover how to support your entire workforce and thrive in 2021 and beyond.