What is a Digital Workplace and What Makes it Run?
Every company uses technology to do business. Whether you’re Mac or PC, laptop or desktop, wired or wireless, digital technology is central to your interaction with the workplace. But simply using these technologies doesn’t make your workplace a digital one. So, it begs the question: “What is a digital workplace?”
A true digital workplace is one that not only utilizes technology, it’s governed by it. Examples of digital workplace technologies include automated lights, networked wayfinding systems (read more on what is wayfinding), and connected workstations.
Having a digital printer in your workplace doesn’t make it a digital workplace. Being able to print a cloud-hosted document from three floors away and sending a heads-up on Slack to someone on that floor is what makes your workplace digital.
More than convenience, a digital workplace solution is a necessity
Demand for digital workplace solutions is only growing. And it’s not just about convenience—it’s about keeping up with the ever-increasing pace of work.
Think about the time saved in the example above. Leaving their desk, traveling three floors to pick up a piece of paper, and taking it to someone else equates to precious minutes an employee could spend doing something else. More importantly, it doesn’t disrupt the workflow. The start-stop-start interruption of getting up breaks concentration. Worse, it can lead to costly errors. Inevitably, it’s a drain on productivity.
The digital workplace is also about doing more with less—and accomplishing more, faster. Automation and adaptability are crucial aspects of a digital workplace. Programming “if this, then that” algorithms into digital workplace connected components unlocks boundless opportunities. Best of all, these action-reaction triggers govern themselves, taking the responsibility off employees’ shoulders.
And there’s no accounting for costs saved. It’s nearly impossible to measure the dollars and cents saved via automation and real-time technologies. Good facilities’ managers can calculate cost figures on the direct impact of smart technologies, but secondary and tertiary benefits generate their own savings.
Examples of digital workplace innovation
The benefits of the digital workplace make themselves instantly apparent. Take a look at a few examples and their benefits:
Group A wants to use the third-floor conference room from 3-4 p.m. on Tuesday. Group B already has it booked from 2-5 p.m. that day. Group A submits their request to booking, which comes back instantly as unavailable. So, the group starts a message on Slack to determine a better time. They agree on 10-11 a.m. They send a message from Slack to the booking software, which returns a confirmation and blocks off that time. Monday night, everyone gets an email reminder about their meeting the next morning, with wayfinding instructions to the third-floor conference room.
Company X has 12 remote workers and four hotel desks. Jack, a remote worker, decides to work from the office on Monday. He checks in with the facility manager, who checks the hotel desk schedule. All four desks are full. But the facility manager can see there’s a small office unoccupied on the second floor. Jack goes up to the office and, by the time he gets there, he has an SMS message with the login information for that workstation, phone extension, and the Wi-Fi password.
Company Y needs to slim down its office. Using data from occupancy sensors, it’s able to tell how often various spaces are utilized. Coupled with data from hotel desk booking software and space utilization metrics from an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS), the facility manager and real estate manager create a new floor plan that requires less space—without cutting back elsewhere. Then, they generate a relocation plan using the new floor plan, Slack messaging, Trello boards, and weekly meetings.
Every employee at Company Z gets an access badge. Badges are centrally managed by the facility manager, who controls permissions. Amanda was recently promoted and now, instead of working on the fifth floor, she works on the sixth. She now has access to the parking garage, as well as the executive break room. The facility manager receives the promotion notification from Human Resources and changes Amanda’s permissions. When Amanda swipes her card the next day, everything works as it should.
Beyond digital workplace examples
The above examples are only a few digital workplace possibilities. The more connected technologies, the more opportunities. And, with the growing Internet of Things (IoT), there’s no shortage of devices for increasingly digital workplaces.
Smart sensors, beacons, network hubs, and wearable devices are spreading like wildfire into workplaces around the world. They’re accompanied by software, apps, algorithms, and entire ecosystems that bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital one. They present data—for better decision-making—as well as ways to act on these decisions.
Quantifying the workplace makes it better, but it takes the right technologies and insights. The further into the digital workplace a company immerses itself, the clearer these realizations become. Each new addition to the digital ecosystem is one step closer to a fully optimized workplace.
Keep reading: the best office layout for productivity