Like so many other things that have never been the same since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which we work now play by a different set of rules than those which were previously the norm. Work is now no longer a pursuit that takes place between 9am and 5pm, with a commute to an office on either side and with all other aspects of life – the reasons for working – squeezed in as and when they can.
One of the key takeaways from those dark lockdown days has been the increase in hybrid working. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that among the UK workforce, the practice almost doubled from 13 per cent in February 2022 to 24 per cent in May of the same year. Companies have understood how work still gets done but on a flexible basis that suits their employees, with the practice now seen as one which entices potential new members of staff when roles become available.
Given this, digital workspaces are solutions which could make hybrid an even more popular proposition than it already is, both with employees and managers alike.
At their simplest, digital workspace experiences bring all elements of an individual employee’s work under one centralised, convenient umbrella. The relevant information that they need to do their job is at their fingertips, whether that information is critical just to them alone and their own to-do list or to the wider company’s workforce.
This is particularly advantageous when working from home in a hybrid setup. There is no need to go through a convoluted way of asking for help in locating files or folders needed to carry on working; everything is in one place.
Rather than being spread out across disparate, complex sub-folders of shared drives, the digital workspace houses everything a person needs to do their specific role in one interface. They also do not need to search for the applications they use in their roles either – they are presented with them instantly, allowing any task to be performed at any time, in any place where there is an internet connection. The empowerment of getting their job done belongs entirely with the employee thanks to the consistency of their own, bespoke IT experience.
This brings with it considerable benefits. Chiefly, the digital workspace saves the end user time across the course of their day, with the estimated boost to productivity being an additional hour which they can spend now on more important parts of their job than IT housekeeping.
Hybrid working is one factor of the overall employee experience that, as we have seen, has increased in popularity and is now seen as a competitive advantage when offered in the employment market. Digital workspaces are all set to join them as they simplify complex IT arrangements in the workplace and deliver a seamless digital experience which keeps employees engaged.
Evolving around the employee and the organisation
To the uninitiated, though, the digital workspace might sound like a fearsome step into the unknown. However, it’s worth noting that the now-ubiquitous smartphone held the same amount of trepidation less than 20 years ago and it is now very difficult to remember a time when they weren’t there to solve so many of life’s problems. The digital workspace will undoubtedly go on to be looked upon in the same light.
In the beginning, adoption of digital workspaces began with simple intranet portals on which basic information could be shared. Like all technology, they have not remained static; they have developed over time into the kind of common-sense solutions that are now freely available and which make an employee’s working day considerably easier and more productive. Both accelerated and enabled by the pandemic and the need to develop practically overnight, the centralised way of working subsequently emerged into the world which was ready and waiting for it.
A digital workspace’s constituents – and its users
The USP of the digital workspace is its one screen from which everything needed to work can be accessed. It is a platform which offers an integrated, comprehensive space for communication, collaboration and productivity on anything from document and project management to email.
While there is no one office-based industry or sector that has a greater need for a digital workspace over another, it is a tool for those who require information throughout the course of their day. The centralisation of information and applications is defined by ease of use.
Making a connection
Connectivity is also important, on a more fundamental and human level than that of broadband and wi-fi. As well as all the advantages that hybrid working offers that we have previously explored, it’s a process that has inevitably changed how employees experience the culture of their employer. Statistics from Gartner have revealed that hybrid or remote knowledge workers now spend 65 per cent less time in the office than they did before the pandemic took hold and as such they are seeing their teams in-person two full days a week less than they previously did.
The digital workspace both encourages and fosters a sense of connection within the hybrid workforce which, according to the Gartner research, can increase employee performance by up to 37 per cent and employee retention by up to 36 per cent. An engaged workforce is clearly a workforce which doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
What employers need to take into account
Before jumping at the first vendor who attempts to sell them a digital workspace, companies wishing to make the switch to an all-in-one-place solution must consider certain, more in-depth factors that might not necessarily matter to the end user, who will simply access the digital workspace on a pane of glass that is their internet-connected computer.
There are also matters of training to be aware of too. Despite the fact we’re all now proficient with smartphones, there is no doubting that it took time to learn their foibles and how to use them properly. A digital workspace would be no different. Workforces will need to sit down with the tech and work out how best it is used by them.
But when they do, it could be the start of great things happening.
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