Digital workplace experience in the era of remote work

Digital workplace experience in the era of remote work

February 23, 2021

Digital Experience Strategist

2020 has been a disturbing year. From the business perspective, it was a year of global changes and challenges that many companies had never expected to face. With the new public health risks, businesses were pushed to find new ways of organizing their daily workflows and employees’ workplaces.

Interestingly, the pandemic gave a tremendous spur to technological development. For example, the digitization of such domains as customer and supply chain interactions accelerated by three to four years, while the share of digital or digitally enabled products accelerated by seven years, confirms a McKinsey Global Survey:

executive-say-their-companies-responded-to-a-range-of-covid-19-related-changes-much-more-quickly

Another positive result is that regardless of common fears and uncertainty, a great number of companies have managed to adapt to the new reality much faster than expected, particularly when it came to implementing digital workplace solutions and setting up remote work and collaboration.

It’s also noteworthy that the pandemic-induced digital evolution is unlikely to stop when the lockdown is over. Having tested the waters of remote work once, many employees and employers are now willing to preserve the same remote working style in the post-lockdown time. Many business decision-makers already understand that there is no way back to the old working model.

The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2020 claims that 86% of respondents have already moved their staff to remote work, while 43% of technology leaders expect over half of their employees to remain working from home permanently even when health-related risks disappear.

But how to create digital workplaces that will foster remote workers’ productivity? What are the must-have ingredients of a positive digital workplace experience and how to succeed in employee experience management? Those are the questions we answer in this article.

Gearing digital workplaces for remote work

Ensuring the office-level availability of software and hardware resources for remote workers became one of the key challenges for companies globally. To guarantee a decent technological support for their staff, as many as 75% of companies increased their investment in technologies.

workplace-technology-investments-are-rising

Ensuring employees’ effortless communication, uninterrupted operations, and connection with customers are among the key drivers of digital workplace adoption and enhancement. Those are also reasons for companies to actively implement collaboration, business process management (BPM) and customer experience management solutions.

From meeting solution software, to enterprise chat platforms, to desktop-as-a-service, the pandemic rapidly elevated many digital workplace technologies from nice-to-have to must-have status.

Matt Cain

VP Analyst, Gartner

Collaboration tools

Preserving the habitual communication style and pace regardless of employees’ location is a critical mission for all enterprises and one of the key requirements for achieving a positive digital workplace experience.

Instant messaging and video conferencing solutions came to the forefront to fill the gap of live face-to-face interactions. While those tools were popular well before the lockdown, the new reality gave collaboration software a spur, which translates into a constantly growing number of users of the most popular collaboration platforms.

Thus, Microsoft Teams that reported about 20 million daily active users (DAU) in November 2019, attracted 115 million DAU in November 2020. Another video conferencing platform, Zoom, that could boast just 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019, has passed the mark of 300 million daily meeting participants by October 2020.

Collaboration tools, however, play a much more important role than just supporting global communication. By launching corporate intranets and employee portals, businesses also give their staff more freedom in expressing their opinions, sharing knowledge, and innovating, which are all important drivers of business evolution.

Fostering employees’ creativity and involving their staff in barrier-free idea generation is exactly what Volvo Group has done with the help of the Microsoft 365 suite. It allowed the company to improve the workflows related to the design of new trucks and spare parts.

BPM solutions

Ensuring continuous business processes and providing employees with suitable tools for fulfilling daily tasks is another pillar of digital workplace experience. Business process management software is what helps companies to automate a variety of workflows while equipping users with a digital environment for managing enterprise operations.

The greatest advantage of implementing BPM solutions is that they can embrace a broad spectrum of processes, from basic content management workflows to multistage procurement cycles and complex supply chains. BPM software benefits can also be versatile. For example, the Odoo ERP system implementation allowed this provider of industrial automation system repair and maintenance services to substantially reduce the time spent on purchase order approvals and work order management.

As in the case with collaboration tools, the popularity of BPM software will only increase in the years ahead. According to Research And Markets, the BPM market size is expected to grow from $8.8 billion in 2020 to $14.4 billion by 2025.

CRM solutions

CRM solutions are essential components of digital workplaces for specialists involved in customer management. As soon as offices got empty, many businesses felt detached from their customers and unable to preserve the pre-lockdown level of control over customer service. Some enterprises had to switch to 100% online services to save their operations, and CRM software turned to be the key driver of this digital transition.

Unsurprisingly, the mobile and cloud CRM software market is experiencing a substantial growth. While mobile CRM systems give employees the freedom to access customer data at any time and from any location, cloud CRM tools are optimal when companies decide to move away from physical offices and infrastructures.

Speaking about specific CRM solutions, Salesforce now leads the race and is well ahead of multiple competitors, according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center.

gartners-magic-quadrants-for-the-CRM-customer-engagement-center

At the same time, there are many Salesforce alternatives suitable for both large enterprises and small businesses to integrate into their digital workplaces.

Smart workplaces gain momentum

The above-mentioned solutions can be considered digital workplace must-haves as they form the core of the modern digital enterprise and support essential business processes. However, apart from using these essential systems, employees now have greater freedom to extend their digital workplaces with advanced solutions.

On the one hand, there is an increasing usage of smart technologies, particularly AI, AR, VR, and IoT as part of digital workplaces. These smart solutions are to fill the gaps of remote communication along with helping employees fulfill their daily duties with less effort.

On the other hand, the pandemic triggered a new wave of wearables adoption. If before the lockdown people used wearables mostly for health and fitness, today they are more likely to use wearables for work purposes. This has already translated into a substantial growth of newly acquired ear-worn devices and smartwatches.

worldwide-wearable-devices-end-user-spending-by type-2019-2022

The technological workplace upgrade comes with its downsides, though. By connecting personal devices, users might unintentionally leave corporate networks accessible to cybercriminals. For this very reason, cybersecurity becomes the next imperative of the modern digital workplace.

The employee-centric approach to digital workplace security

Trying to adapt to the new remote work mode, companies have to rethink their operational processes, collaboration patterns, and customer interactions. At the same time, businesses have to spend extra efforts on ensuring remote processes are as secure as they were within the office walls, which isn’t easy.

The increased usage of personal software and devices, home and public networks all became loopholes for cybercriminals. Not only did they become more active in attacking remote users, but they also managed to quickly modify their malicious methods to be more effective in exploiting the weaknesses of remote digital workplaces.

cyberattacks-using-previously-unseen-malware-or-methods

To respond to these increasing threats, businesses are now propelled to invest more in enterprise cybersecurity and integrate relevant solutions into employees’ digital workplaces.

managing-corporate-technology

However, just implementing security software isn’t enough to guarantee users’ safe work. Today, enterprises need to apply a whole set of measures to build up robust corporate protection.

Using multiple security solutions. Relying on just one or two basic security solutions is not enough to prevent security breaches. Even the adoption of smart AI-based security software isn’t always a panacea against cybercrime. Domain experts highlight that, at its current maturity level, AI-powered software is prone to generating a huge amount of false positives, particularly while it’s being trained to recognize malicious behavior. Unfortunately, by getting too many false alarms, security teams start to ignore them or even disable a bothering solution, thus raising the risk of overlooking real attacks.

Hackers also take advantage of these shortcomings. Security specialists report being flooded with fake false positives coming from real attackers shortly before the latter start a true intrusion once they manage to distract the security team in charge.

Considering the growing sophistication of cyberattacks and existing software gaps, experts recommend using a mix of complementary security solutions to cover the security needs of employees using different software and devices.

Collaborating with end users. In the pre-pandemic times, security teams usually interacted with employees occasionally, for example, to carry out security training or inform them about security updates. However, such a fragmentary communication can’t be effective in the time when remote workers are extremely attractive targets for cybercriminals.

That’s why today a successful digital workplace experience depends a lot on how well the communication between security teams and employees is organized. For end users to feel protected, their employers need to deliver security recommendations regularly. This communication can include:

  • Voicing out potential dangers and the ways of preventing cybersecurity incidents.
  • Announcing the releases of security patches and updates for popular software and devices and steps to follow to install them.
  • Reporting registered security incidents and provide users with tips on preventing possible breaches.
  • Addressing security issues personally to provide individual security support depending on specific issues.

As communication vehicles, companies can launch security groups and channels on their corporate resources, be it an employee portal, an enterprise chat, or a wiki.

Prioritizing digital workplace ergonomics

Companies can offer excellent software to their employees, but badly equipped physical workplaces can ruin any positive digital workplace experience. Outdated devices, uncomfortable tables and chairs, no working area at home—all those disadvantages can harm employees’ productivity and even health. The problem is that employees can’t always organize their workplaces correctly or aren’t ready to invest in ergonomic furniture.

Fortunately, there are multiple examples of companies that take responsibility for their employees’ workplace ergonomics or start investing more in employees’ wellness.

  • Shopify and Twitter reimburse $1,000 to each employee for equipping their home offices.
  • Buffer, a provider of social network management tools, reimburses the full cost of home internet plans used by their staff.
  • Chegg, an educational solutions provider, covers their employees’ monthly internet bills and allocates $500 to each employee for purchasing workplace furniture.
  • Webflow, a company offering website building SaaS pays $375 per month as a home office stipend for employees to cover their expenses on organizing their workplaces and using wellness apps.

A well-balanced digital workplace

To succeed in remote employee experience management, modern businesses have to take care of several aspects at once. While well-performing software that supports employees’ daily work is critical, it’s not the only component that shapes the digital workplace today. Organizing physical workplaces and rethinking cybersecurity strategies are essential steps for companies that aim at a smooth transition to permanent remote work.

Collecting employees’ feedback regarding their work from home and helping them to improve their working environment are yet another important steps to take. Since employees have different home working conditions, addressing their needs on an individual basis is the only way to ensure their comfortable and protected working process.