The Future of the Digital Workplace In a Post-Covid World

By Hani Khan
What hasn’t been said about COVID-19 and the changes it has forced organizations to make in light of this extended remote work period? The transition to a fully remote office workforce caused organizations to take a look at their digital tech toolkit and re-evaluate processes to help meet the immediate need.

Since March 2020, people across the world have been working from their home offices and companies have had to shift their once stringent policies and operations to ensure the safety of their employees. Many businesses had the digital technology to ensure a smooth transition from Video Conferencing tools to Instant Messaging to Intranets for a single source of truth or they had to adapt very quickly to make sure their employees were connected to maintain productivity levels and business operations.

Now as the world slowly starts to re-open with vaccination numbers going up and COVID cases going down, organizations are having to once again re-evaluate what they need for their office, remote, and hybrid workers in the digital workplace.

As we look at what the future of work looks like, many employees that were once full-time office workers have become full-time remote while others look forward to a hybrid model with a part-time office and home presence. Organizations will have to adapt to this new normal whether it’s updated HR policies, different physical workplaces settings, or improvements in the organizational digital workplace. This shift in work presents a unique opportunity to improve remote work practices to ensure that productivity, operations, and business success continue.

What is a Digital Workplace?

A digital workplace is a supplement to a physical office location and houses the organization’s important technologies that improve collaboration, employee engagement, content management, and business processes. Major companies have connected their various departments to allow employees to access content and organizational information from any location via a digital portal.

While many organizations were in the process of a digital transformation prior to the pandemic, it got accelerated in 2020 so that employees could collaborate and connect with their fellow co-workers regardless of their physical location. The digital workplace represents a shift in how people like to work and more importantly, where they like to work. Organizations are having to embrace different types of technology and bring in new platforms that enhance the employee experience.

The transition back to the office

The future of work will never be the same, it’s just a matter of how different it will be. The sudden shift to remote work not only forced organizations to realize that it’s possible to have a distributed productive workforce but also forced people to re-evaluate their working style and methods.

Traditionally, organizations have encouraged heavy office employee presence to create a company culture and increase productivity at the expense of early mornings with late evenings and long commute times. Remote work has freed organizations from poor, inefficient processes, excessive meetings, and office politics.

And from an employee perspective, people have realized that they can live anywhere and be just as good at their job as they were in the office. Staffing firm Robert Half found that 60% of office professionals who had transitioned to a remote setup said they have better work/life balance and that 74% of respondents would like to continue to telecommute more after pandemic restrictions are eased.

The pandemic caused employees to create new expectations about working conditions and maintaining a work-life balance which involves a lot of flexibility. Now as organizations tend to a growing number of remote workers, the digital workplace has to fit the business needs of onsite, remote, and hybrid workers. Businesses that find the right balance will drive productivity, engagement and empower employees across departments, teams, and locations. This will be the leading edge as we enter this new era of work.

How are organizations adapting to the future of work?

For many organizations, the daily experience of work will change especially for those that can work from home. A hybrid model will emerge with employees working from home one to three days a week while the other days will involve in-person interaction to encourage social interactions and collaboration.

Most companies have learned that work can be conducted remotely without a significant drop in productivity or efficiency and that overall employees are happy with the drop in their commute. The in-person meetings and office team can be used to encourage collaboration, build interpersonal relationships, and brainstorm new ideas. The future of work will be distributed.

New Technology and Tools

As organizations fit digital solutions into a permanent digital workplace, they have to take inventory of what is currently in their tech stack and what is missing. A modern workplace requires modern solutions and there are essential communication, collaboration, and remote technology tools that are needed.

Remote workers need multiple kinds of technology to empower them to work efficiently but we must recognize how to appropriately use each remote work tool to not only keep employees productive but to preserve company culture and connection.

Companies may be able to overcome the digital workplace’s deficits and ambiguities by more intentionally embracing its positive aspects, including the data generated by workers’ tools and platforms. This can help organizations optimize individual and team performance and customize the employee experience through personalized recommendations, enabling remote work to be far more than a diminished proxy for the traditional office. And as onsite workspaces and headquarters evolve, organizations can use this data to create thriving, productive, and cost-effective offices that are seamlessly interwoven with the remote experience.

Make the Digital Workplace Measurable

You can’t manage what you can’t measure so how can you determine success in the post-pandemic work environment? Implementing digital technology and tools that have built-in analytics and insights help organizations determine individual employee performance to team productivity and even to company culture. Data enables us to identify patterns and behavior that can enhance company performance across individuals and teams.

Tools that enable analytics to deliver actionable insights and can be used to give each employee a personalized experience to optimize performance and responses. These observations can help gauge the remote workforce connection and identify isolated employees based on how they’re interacting with others and in their team to enhance their digital experience.

Developing Virtual Company Culture

Companies will need to overcome the digital workplace deficits by creating and nurturing the positive aspects of their deployed digital tools. Data and analytics that get generated by users will be key in helping organizations evolve their virtual company culture and optimize the employee experience through personalization.

One of the biggest gaps that organizations have seen in the past year is the social, interpersonal connection that employees build with one another. With a growing remote workforce, tools that encourage active communication and build community help create the virtual company culture. That often leads to meaningful connections and a positive impact on productivity and engagement across the organization.

Evolve digital workplace for long-term hybrid working models

As organizations embrace remote-working in the post-covid 19 future, they have to think about how the digital workplace will support not only their business operations but creating and preserving company information and culture.

Often overlooked, it’s a platform that can streamline top-down critical information while aligning and connecting employees organization-wide: the modern intranet. A modern intranet or an internal communication platform fills in the gap that the most often talked about enterprise technologies miss. Without a source of truth, what often happens is, critical updates and messages get lost, rumors begin, and uncertainty heightens sensitivities. Because we have more tools in our digital workplace than ever, misinformation can spread like wildfire across disparate channels.

The Way Forward

Covid-19 has caused organizations to adopt remote work, and now many are now having to enable and manage a digital workplace that works for both in-office and remote workers. Hybrid work is here to stay.

Analytics, collaboration tools, office space will determine the future workplace, especially as organizations aim to deliver customized employee experience to enhance productivity and performance. The Post-Covid world involves fewer commutes, more flexibility, and new ways to manage strong collaboration and innovation.

The pandemic was a forced acceleration of the digital workplace as organizations had to change and adapt quickly to protect the health of their employees. But now, leaders have to accept the fate of the digital workplace and invest in their future.

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