By Dean Landsman
The Digital Workplace is rapidly evolving into a messaging and collaboration center. Thanks to pervasive, nearly omnipresent connectivity and the plummeting prices of computers (laptops and desktops; some models of tablets) it is easy to set up shop just about anywhere. This can be in a spare room, at an Internet café or coffee shop, or at a coworking location.
In fact, the term digital workplace might soon be replaced by the digital workspace.
At one time “the remote worker” was an oddity. Not anymore. No longer are those workers outliers, or oddball types who seem only to exist on phone calls and occasional video conferences. The present day business environment has passed the gestation stage. The digital workspace is a reality for medium and small businesses.
To acknowledge the metamorphosis of the work experience, companies have adapted in response to these changes in the digital workspace. This has brought forth the integration of the wide breadth of digital tools and utilities in common use in both the workspace and the personal space. Email, messaging, the online calendar, tweeting, photo sharing, group video or conference call meeting tools – all of these exist either in the cloud or on devices. Choice of devices has switched to the individual rather than as per the edict of the enterprise. This fosters ease of use, comfort, increased productivity, efficiencies and may also promote growth and innovation.
Personal tools or devices and choice of applications has changed buying processes on the enterprise level. Better to let workers decide on an iPhone or Android, Google Calendar or iCal, document and image storage in the cloud via Dropbox, Amazon or iCloud or The Box or OneDrive (among a vast array of others), to use a Mac or a PC, and so forth.
Except for sensitive corporate materials, choice of storage and access is left to the end user.
The corporate edict, the company-wide selection of brand of computer, mobile phone, and the like has been largely abandoned. This nurtures productivity and honors the predilection of the workers. Individual preferences take priority. This freedom from corporate conformity adds to worker satisfaction and, in turn, productivity.
The rise of the distributed workforce is tied to the ease of connectivity. A workforce may include teams composed of members in different locations. This becomes global in scope, as connectivity enables collaboration and interaction. The only barrier may be time zones. But in the new reality of connectedness and global interaction, traditional 9 to 5 type office hours are less a consideration. Global conference calls now occur with great frequency. Gen Xers, Gen Yers, Millennials and Boomers open to change make for a different view of time and availability. The goal is productivity and interaction.
There are other aspects gaining and changing from the new workspace. HR has different challenges. Fewer on site workers means a decrease in some areas of liability and OSHA concerns. Accounting and finance sees difference in terms of the physical plant. Fewer desks means a decreased need for office space. The physical footprint gets smaller, the need for furniture and fixtures goes down. These all represent varying levels of savings throughout the enterprise.
Messaging and collaboration tools have risen in hockey stick proportions due to the distributed workspace. Slack, Cola, Yammer, Salesforce, Basecamp, the suite of tools from Google and Microsoft, all offer groupware, collaboration, interaction and varying degrees of storage and messaging.
In a mobile-first world, where use of mobile phones and tablets are rapidly outpacing laptops and desktops, ease and utility take priority. Those tools and services enhance the distributed work environment and enable continuity and updates, versioning and collaborative interaction.
Digital Strategy in the workspace means the acceptance, in some cases the creation, and in all cases the adaptation of a wide swath of tools for productivity. Tech-savvy members of the workforce discover and suggest tools to be introduced in the workspace. This sense of community as opposed to the yesteryear method of prescriptive, corporate authorized tools and devices, fosters a sense of confidence and trust in the workspace.
The key strategic digital focus for the digital workspace may best be on integration of tools, being aware of the emergent nature of tools and devices, and finding more ways to communicate and capture the entrepreneurial and innovative nature of the workforce.