There’s no denying the rapid shift to remote work in the midst of COVID-19. For many companies, it’s the best way to maintain some semblance of normal operations while keeping people safe. It’s widely believed telecommuting will linger post-pandemic, which means now’s the time for companies to embrace, cultivate, and continue to develop digital workspace solutions.

Whether they return to a physical workplace at any point in the future or not, it’s inevitable that distributed teams and nomadic workers are here to stay. Here’s a look at the digital workspace solutions they need to be successful.

What is a digital workspace?

To understand digital workspace solutions, look first at something more familiar: the physical workplace. What does an employee expect from their physical workspace? The answer today is a lot less than it was 20 years ago. Today, it might only be a handful of things: a desk, chair, outlet to plug in their computer, and proper lighting. These elements are what it takes to do their job.

Mirror this thought process to the digital. What do employees need in terms of digital resources—internet access, email, word processing and graphic design programs? The concept is the same, but the possibilities are so much broader and more diverse. It’s proof that much of the work we do today is digital, and digital workspaces vary greatly from person to person.

Just like work has moved out of the physical and into the digital realm, digital workspaces themselves are expanding to become more diverse. Employees may not log into a workplace portal from their home anymore—instead they use a collection of apps and programs to do their job from wherever they are that day.

Digital workspaces vary from company to company, employee to employee. They are what they need to be to help employees do their job. Marvin and Lucas may both be graphic designers, but just like their physical workspaces might take on different personalities in the workplace, their digital workspaces likely don’t look the same.

Develop an accessible digital ecosystem

Take this idea of an employee-specific digital workspace and expand it. In a physical office, a workspace is just one of many that make up the entire workplace. Online, the same is true. Employees work within a larger digital ecosystem, and many of the same rules apply.

Take something like user access. Rita needs access to a Dropbox folder with product renderings in it, but she doesn’t have appropriate permissions. This is the digital equivalent to not having badge access to the product lab at work—only instead of a physical door to block her path, there’s a digital one. This is just one of many analogies that show stark similarities between the digital workplace and a physical one, and cast light on how to cultivate a productive digital environment.

To provide employees with digital workspace solutions, first provide them with a robust digital ecosystem. They’ll build their own experience, provided companies give them the means. In the physical, it means offering different types of workspaces and opportunities for access. Online, it means building out an accessible ecosystem of apps and programs.

Digital workspace development benefits

Migrating a well-cultivated workplace online unlocks a wealth of opportunities that are important for growth—especially as the remote workforce becomes a mainstay. The biggest benefit is accessibility without impedance. Employees can work effectively wherever, whenever. Moreover, they can perform their job in a way that’s comfortable and familiar to them.

The digital workspace isn’t tied to the physical one. In many ways, the next iteration of workplace evolution is the lack of a physical workplace itself—or at least the shrinking of one. In minimizing the role of the physical to rely more on digital, companies unlock significant benefits:

  • Access to a broader, more global talent pool
  • Reduced overhead and cost savings from lower real estate costs
  • Improved flexibility for working hours, locations, and styles
  • Reduced liability by minimizing risk associated with the workplace
  • Less reliance on physical resources by employees

The benefits go even beyond these; however, everything roots back to improved productivity for employees. Better accessibility, efficiency, and even comfort stem from well-developed digital workspaces.

Digital is here to stay

The beauty of digital workspaces is that they’re free of the limitations of physical workplaces. Everything is at the tips of your fingers. To visit the conference room, launch Zoom. To chat with coworkers, send a Slack message. To collaborate, launch Dropbox. Apps and cloud services provide everything the workplace can, and more.

Reliance on digital workspace is growing. Companies need to recognize the demands of remote employees and cultivate the digital ecosystems they need to do work—regardless of where their physical workplace is that day. The more digital solutions you provide, the simpler it is for employees to succeed.

Keep reading: 10 Traits of Distributed Agile Teams