The Digital Workplace: Key to Success in the Digital Economy

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By: Chris Nerney |

Success in the digital economy requires leveraging digital technology to accomplish business goals. There are many ways to do this, of course — from creating mobile apps for an enterprise’s customers and employees to deploying IT resources from the cloud.

But perhaps the most effective way enterprises can use technology to achieve their long-term business goals is to create a work environment perfectly aligned with both the digital economy and the needs of their employees, many of whom have strong personal technology preferences and nontraditional work habits. What is becoming known as “the digital workplace” fully makes use of a wide range of digital technologies to enhance employee productivity, thus making more efficient use of office and staff resources and allowing enterprises to be more flexible.

Mobility Drives the Digital Workplace

While the digital workplace is comprised of a number of technologies, mobility is “a key enabler,” as Tim Lydon previously wrote for IT Biz Advisor. This makes perfect sense, given the ubiquity of mobile devices. But whether these devices are distributed by enterprise IT or brought in by employees as part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative, it is crucial that they are properly secured and supported.

This means ensuring mobile devices work with other digital workplace technologies. Lydon writes, “Technology incompatibility can also cause challenges for the organization and its IT department, including loss of productivity, disrupted work-life balance (i.e., stress), security issues and lack of collaboration.”

Though mobility inarguably drives the digital workplace, interconnectedness is the critical ingredient. Employees in and out of the office must be able to communicate and collaborate regardless of the device or software platform they use.

Taher Behbehani asserts, “Digital workplaces must extend beyond technologies that simply connect individuals to one another via calls, video, emails and messaging, and evolve to virtual persistent team work spaces that minimize distractions and maximize engagement,” in commentary for CMSWire.

Enter Smart Offices

Millennials will soon comprise the majority of the workforce — and they generally aren’t invested in the notion of exclusive offices or cubicles. Rather, they tend to value flexibility and the ability to collaborate spontaneously wherever is most convenient and most likely to facilitate productivity.

Forward-thinking enterprises are leveraging millennials’ work preferences by creating so-called “smart offices” that make employees more productive while saving money. According to office design consultancy CallisonRTKL, “Hundreds of utilization studies across industries show individual work spaces at 40 percent average utilization, meaning that at any given time, only 40 percent of desks have a human being sitting in them. Right-sizing real estate based on utilization can reduce costs by up to 30 percent.”

Two popular smart office techniques that enable better use of space are “hoteling” and “hot desking.” Hoteling is a process where workers use an app to reserve available office space and resources, while hot desking is the practice of assigning (or grabbing) desks on a first-come, first-served basis.

Work space is just one consideration; what makes an office truly smart is its ability to detect people and automatically provide technological and environmental support where it’s needed. For example, beacons and sensors can determine whether people are in an office (sometimes including specific individuals) and adjust lighting and room temperature accordingly. Smart offices also provide wireless connectivity everywhere, including the ability to access peripherals such as printers. Further, cloud-based unified communications systems can allow work phone numbers to “follow” employees wherever they are working in their smart office.

One smart office enterprise is WeWork, a company that rents shared work space, community and services to businesses and individuals in more than 100 locations. As Fast Company reports, WeWork’s smart offices use machine learning to track how frequently meeting rooms in specific locations are used. This allows WeWork to determine how many conference rooms will be required in future locations. And in WeWork’s beta testing floor at its New York headquarters, a “computer vision system” produces heat maps that highlight spaces used most frequently by WeWork members.

By embedding technology into the physical workplace, enterprises are able to turn buildings into “giant computers,” as Joshua Emig, WeWork’s head of product research, tells Fast Company. This makes workplaces adaptable to human traffic and more scalable thanks to the intelligent routing of space and resources.

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About The Author

Chris Nerney

Freelance Writer

Chris Nerney writes about technology, science and health care for a number of websites and enterprises. He has written extensively about mobile technology, cloud computing, big data and analytics, health care finance and IT, data centers and space technology. His work has appeared in Computerworld, CIO.com, Data-Informed, Revenue Cycle Insights, Network World and numerous other sites. Chris also writes technology white papers and is an experienced editor.

Articles by Chris Nerney
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