The concept of a digital workplace is becoming a lot more popular within businesses. But what is it exactly? You could say it’s the workstation 2.0. A development on the back of the digital boom, responding to newly emerging needs. Office stationery and aging communication methods are being gradually replaced by digital tools which offer new opportunities for collaboration and exchange, while supporting companies in their digital transformation at the same time.

A shift in working methods

The idea of the digital workplace arose toward the end of the 2000s, especially with developments in intranets. “They evolved from being simple internal websites to being real hubs of information, colleague interactions within the company, business applications, and expertise,” explains Gilles Balmisse, an author of a book on the topic. This brand-new concept encompasses all the technologies that colleagues use in their work on a day-to-day basis. Emails, instant messengers, corporate social media, HR applications, virtual meeting tools, the list goes on. By grouping all these technologies together, the digital workplace has brought some consistency to the array of communication methods, promoting efficient collaboration.

According to a 2015 study by Deloitte, the digital workplace addresses several developments that businesses are concerned about, “such as the changes to working methods, which are becoming increasingly diverse and collaborative, the reinforcement and attractiveness of the employer brand by offering innovative and dynamic working environments, and even the increase in productivity by providing colleagues with the right tools and information at the right time”.

Better communication for better efficiency

Collaboration couldn’t be more important in the professional world today. But if companies want to get the job done productively, they need to be able to leverage the expertise distributed across their business using online integrated collaborative tools which allow everyone involved to work together.

The digital workplace can improve communication. Faced with a flood of ever-important information, employees need all the help they can get to sort through it all. To ensure that the right information reaches the right people, employees need tools which support multi-directional communication.

Considering the needs of the employee 2.0

The digital workplace helps companies to find answers to various problems to do with changes to working methods. This solution takes mobility into account, for instance. With 80% of employees in Europe today working partly off site, the digital workplace enables everyone to stay connected regardless of their location. Employees these days need to be able to log on wherever and whenever.

The new workplace is also associated with reduced costs, such as licensing costs thanks to migration to the cloud and travel costs thanks to virtual meetings and remote working. Productivity is increased too, as employees have access to the right tools and information at the right time. According to Gartner, digital businesses prefer it when “people, companies, and objects come together”. The analyst believes that the digital workplace promotes “efficiency and involvement among employees through a consumerized working environment”.

Making the workplace more secure

The digital workplace is an opportunity for businesses to project the right image for their brand, but also to tackle problems like shadow IT. Employees are looking to use tools which offer them the same degree of flexibility and functionality which they are accustomed to in their personal life, without putting their company’s IT security at risk. The digital workplace seeks to provide a working environment that delivers the same high performance and pleasant experience which they get at home.

A welcome change for organizations

The Digital Workplace 2016 – evolution or revolution? barometer developed by the firm Julhiet Sterwen and the French Institute of Public Opinion analyses how far businesses wishing to become a true digital workplace still need to go. It is based on 4 major axes: technology and associated uses, the organization and its processes, human resources, and place of work. The study revealed that 53% of employees and 63% of managers say that “the digital transformation feels a revolution”. A breakthrough which is perceived as being “a rather good thing”. Beyond the technological aspects (use of new hardware and software), employees also see digital transformation as an opportunity to develop new skills and new ways of working.

Image © Unsplash by Markus Spiske