What is a Digital Workplace and How Does it Affect The Employee Experience?
With the emergence of new technologies that fully support deskless workers, the number and types of organizations that rely on a mobile workforce has drastically expanded. But it can be challenging to manage a deskless, fixed-location, and blended team, as employees are often scattered in multiple locations and have different needs.
If you’re not using the right technology—or if you’re not connecting your technologies in an effective way—the challenges of managing your deskless workers may impede productivity, disrupt communication, and hurt team morale. But, with a comprehensive, cloud-based platform that’s built to better engage and empower mobile workers, you can easily manage, engage, and analyze your deskless workforce in one central location.
What is a Digital Workplace?
A digital workplace is a platform that virtually connects all employees, creating a digital experience equivalent to a physical office. The platform helps your team be productive, request support, and collaborate with other team members. Over time, your digital workplace may evolve to include new technologies and processes that better meet your team members’ needs; like team wiki spaces to encourage unstructured discussion, or routing tools that help people get from point A to point B in the best way possible.
Virtual workplaces have steadily grown in popularity in recent decades, with more companies seeking out tools to support a mobile-first approach to workforce management. After the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, the need for a comprehensive digital workplace became essential.
These cloud-based platforms unify your technology, tools, and applications within one secure location, including virtual meeting tools, project collaboration tools, automated workflows, and more. Yet, the focus of the digital workplace isn’t technology or efficiency: it’s the people. Ask yourself, what does my team need to succeed? How can I improve the digital workplace for both deskless and onsite employees?
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Common Misconceptions about the Digital Workplace
The digital workplace concept isn’t new, but there are still misunderstandings surrounding the term. Let’s take a moment to clarify what a digital workplace is by highlighting what it clearly is not:
A digital workplace is not the intranet
A company’s intranet is a secure, private network that allows employees to engage and share information. However, they aren’t often used to manage active projects, data, or feedback.
A digital workplace works with your intranet to make it stronger and more streamlined: helping employees find information on all platforms (including the intranet), reference intranet documents alongside job data, and improve communication across applications. The intranet is a key piece of the broader digital workplace puzzle, but simply launching an intranet won’t ensure effective employee use of your adopted technologies. The digital workplace closes the gaps between your job data and your company data, allowing you to collect and store data and manage jobs, schedules, and more in real-time, all in one place.
A digital workplace is not a collection of lots of tools
Each season, a groundbreaking application or tool takes the industry by storm. It promises to solve all your organizational, project management, or even administrative challenges. But more often than not, it becomes just another tool that your team has to manage.
Excessive, overlapping applications don’t constitute a digital workplace. Instead, they create a disjointed experience that makes it hard for team members to track details, locate data, and toggle between tools to complete assignments. A digital workplace is all about understanding your employees’ needs throughout the process and including only the right technologies to help them manage their daily tasks.
A digital workplace is not a collaboration platform
Collaboration platforms support live communication, but the digital workplace does much more. In addition to improving team collaboration, digital workplace platforms help you optimize processes, track jobs, and use automation effectively, where possible. A digital workplace does more than track tasks; it is a strategic, thoughtfully designed platform (backed by powerful applications) that creates a culture of connectedness and productivity change by investing in human capital.
The use of digital tools on its own doesn’t constitute a digital workplace. Those tools work separately to help you achieve individual goals, while a digital workplace platform brings your digital spaces together in a worker-centric way to empower employees and support business goals.
Key Components of a Digital Workplace
Digital workplaces vary across organizations and industries. Still, there are best practices you can follow to identify a platform that fits the needs of your deskless workforce, in-office staff, and customers.
Collaboration and Communication
The ‘traditional’ workplace—full-time workers on fixed schedules— is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Certain companies and industries arrived at the need for a blended workforce using different paths: some industries must provide round-the-clock coverage with a specialized set of skills; others may need to meet customers where they are to perform time-sensitive services; and companies in all sectors want to recruit the best possible workers, whether they prefer to be full-time, fixed-location, deskless, or contract workers. Now, 80% of the global workforce is deskless, and workers who travel to different job sites to deliver services to customers and require unique tools and support..
Collaboration and communication remain essential, of course, but are much harder to maintain within a deskless workforce. This can be particularly challenging if your mobile workers use multiple, disparate tools (e.g. text messages, phone calls, emails, etc.) to notify each other and customers of delays, cancellations, or other key updates.
When exploring platforms, consider how your current intranet and applications could work together to create a streamlined, centralized source for communication. A digital workplace should provide a single, easily-accessible place for team members to communicate updates, record customer and job details, and access essential information that can be synced with your existing infrastructure and systems (like sending time logs to HR, overtime reports to payroll, invoices and follow-up requests to ERP, and more).
The Right Tools and Technology
Your team uses a range of software and applications to complete daily business operations. Mobile workers use a variety of SaaS apps daily to ensure proper customer data collection, accurate work logs, optimized routes from job to job, communication in the field and to the back office, and more.
But toggling between too many technologies can overwhelm employees and create workflow bottlenecks. With a digital workplace, team members gain access to applications and data in a centralized platform, saving your team time and creating a more intuitive experience, from the employee’s perspective. These platforms help your mobile workforce seamlessly connect scheduling, collaboration, and engagement applications without having to keep track of myriad disparate tools.
Governance and Compliance
When adding new technology to the mix, securing data is of the utmost importance, including information from users, customers, and the company alike. It can be difficult to ensure regulatory compliance while also fully taking advantage of the tools you’ve implemented, particularly as your business scales and your mobile workforce continues to grow.
You’ll need to be confident that your employees (whether in the back office, in the field, or at a fixed location) can securely access, collect, and share key data. A digital workplace lets you reach this goal by combining secure tools with an approach that requires proper planning and configuration of those tools.
For example, the digital workplace can include 2-step authentication (set up at the company level) that requires taking security measures before accessing or sharing customer data. You can also set up global rules that only allow certain types of data to be shared internally vs. externally (i.e. only your care team members can access customers’ personal health information).
It’s also important to note that some third-party apps can collect data from the entire device without employees realizing it. Providing those employees with a digital workplace that meets all their needs (e.g. password sharing, communication, etc.) reduces—or entirely eliminates—the use of unauthorized, unsecured apps, better protecting your workers, your customers, and your organization as a whole.
How Does a Digital Workplace Improve Employee Experience?
Most are familiar with the phrase, “the customer is always right.” The customers’ experience is a large part of your organization’s success, but the employee experience is arguably just as important.
Your employees are by far your business’s most valuable resources. Without your team’s skill and knowledge, the company wouldn’t reach its goals and milestones. In fact, a poor employee experience can actively hinder you from reaching your goals: disengaged employees cost companies up to $550 billion a year.
But when employees feel empowered, they excel at serving customers. Ensuring your deskless workers are performing at their highest level means supporting them with everything they need along the way.
A digital workplace improves your employee experience in various ways, helping to engage team members throughout the process and create a shared experience for deskless and mobile workers:
- Ensure a bottom-up approach: Digital workplace platforms are designed to support employees’ daily activities to help them reach new levels of efficiency. Implementing an effective platform requires you to first understand your mobile workers’ needs and what you’ll need to do to ease the burden of day-to-day tasks and workflows. That understanding, empathy, and problem-solving—followed by thoughtful design and implementation of a strong platform—shows your employees that you truly care about how to best support them.
- Increase efficiency and productivity: You can easily integrate tools and applications that help employees complete their tasks, track details, and achieve maximum productivity with the right digital workplace. Mobile workers can spend less time focusing on administrative tasks (like manually tracking hours worked, entering them in a spreadsheet when they return to the office, and submitting them to payroll for auditing) and have more time to focus on serving customers.
- Streamline communication: Team members can use a single platform to communicate with each other and collaborate from anywhere with information that’s automatically updated. They can also easily communicate with customers to update them on arrival times or delays without having to contact a back-office worker to send the update for them.
- Eliminate the need for switching between apps: Going from one app to another is time-consuming and often results in disjointed data collection and reporting. A digital workplace lets you connect and access your applications at once, so nothing falls through the cracks.
- Increase visibility and transparency: A digital workplace allows you to see who is working on what, which workers are being over or under-utilized, and where you can make improvements to your existing workflows. This creates a culture based on transparency where team members feel acknowledged, accountable, and included. Your business benefits, too, as you’ll have real-time data that reflects your employees’ skills, customer needs, and how effectively you’re marrying the two.
- Automate processes: Eliminate repetitive, mundane tasks that consume your team’s time and decrease morale with a system that allows you to centrally schedule, automate, and manage operations. Automate the elements of work that don’t require manual intervention (like sending appointment reminders or approving common expenses up to a certain amount) so you can focus your time on what truly needs attention, like large deviations from the average appointment time or expected route.
- Ensure support: A digital workplace helps you properly plan, get ahead of evolving trends, and provide onsite, remote, and field employees with immediate support. Staff schedulers and managers have total visibility into workload, demand, and resource availability, so they can easily sound the alarm if an issue arises or send in an extra helping hand, when needed.
Elevate Your Mobile Workforce to New Levels
Managing a mobile workforce with the wrong approach or tools can hinder your team’s communication, collaboration, and overall productivity. A digital workplace provides you with a communal, virtual framework that helps you organize your tools, tasks, project updates, and more in a central-secure platform.
Skedulo’s Deskless Productivity Cloud uses a one-solution approach to managing your mobile and deskless workforce. The all-in-one platform reduces errors, enables communication, improves team morale, and supports streamlined process execution.
Learn more about the evolution of deskless work and how the Deskless Productivity Cloud helps businesses better engage, manage, and empower their mobile workforce.