Even before the first computer was conceptualized, people dreamed of the day when office work could be done from anywhere, anytime.

Over time, we've realized that dream — making the world a little smaller through a succession of inventions, from the telephone through personal computers to mobile enterprise and internet everywhere.

We no longer marvel that an employee can join a conference call from half a world away or work from the convenience of a home thousands of miles from his office.

But innovations in technology also create expectations, especially for businesses trying to navigate new workplace realities.

Understanding Digital Workplaces

Digital workplaces have rapidly evolved as the new normal for companies of all sizes. But in this era of restless, mobile, global employees, there are key issues for businesses to know. For one, a digital workplace is more than the sum of its parts: it's less defined by things like intranets, productivity suites and messaging platforms than by a culture of enterprise collaboration.

And no matter how many technologies a company embraces or how well it implements them, one thing is clear: The most important mandate of the digital office is to put people first.

Digital workplaces, if done right, are win-win-win organizations: They benefit the business, its employees and also its customers.

In today’s digitally driven world, businesses have numerous challenges to overcome, from retaining talent and increasing productivity to nurturing customer loyalty. But businesses can address these issues through thoughtfully designed and people-focused digital workplaces.

5 Elements of the Digital Workplace

PwC’s Strategy& consultancy identifies five key elements of a successful digital workplace:

  • The workplace environment
  • Access devices
  • Communications infrastructure
  • Business applications
  • Digital security

As the commerce landscape changes, companies need to ensure that information pertaining to their business is easily accessible to their target market at any time. But this can pose problems for employees. When a customer asks a question at 2 a.m., will there be someone available to answer? Who will cater to customer complaints on weekends?

A digital workplace that has these five elements should be able to find practical solutions that meet both employee and customer demands.

For example: if a business supports personal gadgets (access devices) for the use of employees, they can easily collaborate with each other through secure applications (digital security and business applications) and networks (communications infrastructure) to meet customer requests, no matter where they are (workplace environment). Meetings can be done even if a few of the staff are not physically present in the room. Business goes on as usual.

Organizations that are already using digital workplaces report positive advantages. For instance: companies that allow social media and related tools found a 20 percent increase in worker satisfaction. Meanwhile, 64 percent of employees are okay with a low-income job if it gives them the flexibility to work from home.

Less stress during commute means happier workers. The happier and more productive workers are, chances are higher that they’ll stay (an 87 percent retention rate to be exact). With the speed at which people do business nowadays, adopting a digital workspace will not only save you employees, it can also mitigate costs.

Customer Experience and Digital Workspaces

What happens when employees are able to work more happily and efficiently? Customers take notice, too.

The lines between marketing and customer service are quickly disappearing. A good marketing campaign today will undoubtedly involve good customer service. Why? It all goes back to the digital space. Customers have free access to online communities, where news (especially negative news) travels fast.

Businesses have a lot of pressure these days to offer not just what’s good, but what’s excellent. 

Despite the perception that modern customers have no brand loyalty, it's not entirely true. Aside from a good product, what separates companies from each other is their level of customer service — which is directly affected by how productive and driven the employees are.

A customer representative at a contact center for example, could be stuck with just a phone and old CRM software to help him answer customer complaints. Unable to access anything else aside from the company website, the agent would feel limited when helping customers.

However, given a secured network where he could quickly share information and updates with team members, he can feel more empowered each time he answers a call. He might even make small talk. These little details can make or break a transaction.

Each call can be an addition to revenue – or profit out the window.

Work in the Future

Digital workspaces must put people at its core in order to succeed.

One of the best benefits to this strategy is the ability to connect all employees regardless of their geographic location. Now, great talent can be found easily in just a few clicks. Then, companies can bring them all together in one, simple and secure platform where they can collaborate and innovate.

A time may come when offices are obsolete. Workers will come from all walks of life from different continents under a single platform, led by today’s most inspiring visionaries. Customers could get answers to their questions in mere minutes, thanks to dedicated teams working round the clock to ensure topnotch CX. And businesses will keep evolving.

Digital workspaces shouldn’t be seen as an end, but a beginning. By putting people at the center of digital processes, work can actually create a difference.

Title image "Officedog Django" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by HerrBerta