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How to adapt to the new world of work

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How to adapt to the new world of work

Jeremy Horey | Group Consulting Director

The way people work is changing rapidly. In the digital workplace new technology is enabling new workstyles and new work practices. Organisations can become more productive and more customer focused by implementing a digital workplace strategy centred on the needs of those affected most: their employees.

Dimension Data helps organisations optimise their workplaces to meet the demands of the digital world. We recently undertook a global research project, The Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business, which surveyed 850 business leaders and IT specialists on the topic of digital transformation. The results indicate that many organisations, small and large, have been slow to adapt to the new world of work.

60% of organisations haven’t developed a formal and comprehensive strategy around how they deploy or plan to benefit from workplace technology.”

Why do they need a formal and comprehensive strategy?

Our Workspace Assessment can help our clients review their current digital workplace against our recommended practices and then plan solutions that will address their workplace  challenges.

In this post, we will discuss how to embrace changes to the workplace, focusing on three core areas that form the basis of our assessment process. These are an organisation’s:

  • Physical environment
  • Social environment/culture
  • Technology

Physical environment

The traditional office space is rigid. An employee arrives at a predetermined time to sit at a particular workstation. Collaboration takes place in formal meeting rooms, which are booked up days in advance.

However, what we’re seeing more and more is a shift away from this towards a workspace that isn’t constrained by a formal setting. It’s about creating fluid workspaces where your people can work flexibly and collaboratively. The Digital Workplace Report found that: “only 12% of enterprises say they are not making physical changes to the office environment to encourage more collaboration.”

In practice, this collaboration will involve taking a fresh look at how the office space is organised. It might include introducing open-plan offices with standing or hot desks. Or it might mean more informal communal rooms to encourage spontaneous discussion and brainstorming.

Social environment/culture

The way that people think about work has changed. Work used to be seen as a place to spend eight hours a day, and as the only place where work would usually be done. Today, however, work can be much more flexible; employees are empowered to decide where and when they want to work, manage their own work/life balance and be productive on their own terms.

The proliferation of devices means we now support those ‘eureka’ moments, which may suddenly materialise on the train, in the shower, or on the beach at the weekend. And so the business needs to support this in a meaningful way. Employees should have 24/7 access to the right applications, devices and collaboration tools that will allow them to store their new ideas, make updates to reports or upload a file their colleagues across the world can see.

There is an increasing body of research to show that flexible working increases productivity, and so the goal for management is to encourage a culture that allows people to work in the way that suits them best, which will in turn boost engagement, commitment and creativity. Choosing the right technology will play a big part in changing culture to support this.

Technology

Technology is, of course, key to adapting to the future of work. Perhaps the most fundamental considerations to make are that technology must:

  • be easy to use
  • help fulfil business goals
  • be tailored to fit different roles

If a new tool fails against any of these standards, it will not be adopted by staff. Unfortunately, until recently, enterprise IT has almost always been chosen and deployed by the IT department – and not the people who actually use the tools.

However, this scenario is changing. Our research found that 39% of digital workplace strategy decisions do involve line of business employees from sales, marketing, HR and finance for example. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of cloud-based tools which can support even the most niche business requirements, usually on a cheap monthly subscription basis – which is preferable to the traditional major investments of the past. However, this can also lead to situations where business technology is too disorganised and result in information silos.

Our research also shows that in 61% of cases, IT is imposed without any involvement from the end users of the technology. Successfully adapting to the digital workplace needs a more coherent, consistent and unified approach to deploying technology. Those who adapt to the digital workplace best will be the companies that achieve this more unified approach to technology decisions.

Change takes initiative

Change is not a simple on/off switch – it’s a journey. To implement changes in the digital and physical workplace, you would need multiple initiatives, working from different angles, to reach enough people to create a tipping point.

Ultimately this is about change management. The business needs to understand and appreciate the value of transforming itself through new initiatives such as changing KPIs, improving business-wide education—from the shop floor to the C-suite—to poster campaigns.

Workspace Assessment

In the Digital Workplace Report, we discovered that:

Two-thirds of organisations need significant support from external partners when planning, designing, deploying and benefiting from workplace technology solutions.

Our Workspace Assessment is designed to help businesses empower their workforces through digital transformation.

When we carry out an assessment, we consider all three core areas discussed in this post. Technology is the most important. An optimal social or physical environment can never make up for poor technology. However, great technology is never enough by itself. A strategy that combines all three is necessary. To do this, we focus on these seven key factors:

  1. Communication tools
  2. Productivity tools
  3. Business applications
  4. The underlying infrastructure
  5. The operational material
  6. The workplace’s ability to support different work styles
  7. Security and identity

These are the key areas that need to be considered when organisations transition from traditional to digital workplaces. The ultimate goal of digital transformation is to tie all of these elements together in a way that empowers the workforce by making them more productive.

If you would like to know more about the Workspace Assessment, click here.