by Dinesh Varadharajan, Vice President at Kissflow
Even before the sudden shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was increasing in popularity. In the United States alone, the number of remote workers increased 115% in the decade spanning 2005 to 2015, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Approximately 26 million Americans were working from home at least some of the time before the COVID-19 crisis hit.
More and more companies are realizing that flexible work arrangements are beneficial, and professionals around the world are embracing the freedom that comes with remote work, choosing to live near family out of state, or in rural areas, or abroad, all while working for a company headquartered in a big city.
As the trend has grown, it has become apparent that remote workers need more than just a laptop and an internet connection to succeed. When the novel coronavirus threw millions of workers into remote work, many businesses scrambled to cobble together systems that would enable teams to be productive away from the office.
If you’re a manager who was unexpectedly thrown into remote work along with the rest of your team, you may be anxious to get back to business as usual as soon as possible. However, you may want to reconsider. Many workers say they’d like to continue working from home at least part of the time even after the pandemic has passed.
Why you should make remote work part of your long-term plan.
While remote work may not be feasible for every role, it should be a core strategy element in positions where remote or hybrid work is possible.
Here are just a few reasons why:
– It’s great for recruiting and retention. The Global Workplace Survey revealed that flexible or remote work options would be a deciding factor in accepting one job offer over another for 80% of workers. In another survey, 78% of managers said flexible and remote work were among the best non-monetary ways to retain employees.
– It’s profitable. Remote work can decrease overhead costs and liabilities while increasing morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. Remote workers also report less stress and take fewer sick days.
– It’s eco-friendly. More remote workers means few people commuting, which is good for the environment.
The evolution of remote work.
Just a few decades ago, your only option for remote work involved landline telephones and fax machines. It was terribly inefficient, you were stuck to a single location, and you couldn’t get all that much done. There was simply no substitute for in-person collaboration, so telecommuting was a second-best, second-rate way to operate.
Rapid advances in digital technology have changed all that. The advent of email and cell phones and laptop computers, combined with widely-available wifi, has catapulted the business world into a whole new realm of possibility.
For several years now, as technology has evolved and more applications were created, organizations have collected an assortment of accounts, services, apps, and tools to assist in various business functions. As this hodge-podge of platforms grows and becomes unwieldy, many businesses are searching for solutions that allow them to leverage all these advances in digital technology while avoiding the clutter and chaos of multiple applications.
Enter the digital workplace.
What is a digital workplace?
A digital workplace isn’t some amorphous idea that certain team members work off-site. It’s not just “the internet.” And it’s definitely not a patchwork of email, chat, video conferencing, project management, and file-sharing apps.
A digital workplace is a unified platform to manage all the daily activities of a typical business. It does this by offering tools designed to take care of various tasks, processes, projects, unpredictable cases, and collaboration. It offers integrations for all of an organization’s essential business functions.
The rise of the digital workplace.
In 2017, 46% of workers surveyed said their employer had an established digital workplace or strategy. By 2020, that number had risen to %. Increasingly, businesses are realizing the power of a robust digital workplace. As employers realize the benefits of remote work discussed above, many are also launching digital workplaces, increasing employee satisfaction and improving communication among teams.
As baby boomers retire, they’re taking decades of knowledge with them. A digital workplace provides a space to capture and store that information as well as to communicate it with the increasing number of digital natives who are entering the workforce. The digital workplace is a potential learning space unlike any other, unbound by location or time zone, facilitating much-needed education and mentorship.
One challenge of the digital age is information overload. There is simply too much information for anyone to recall. A digital workplace is a repository of all the relevant information for every project. It gives team members quick access to the details they need to work efficiently and effectively.
What makes a good digital workplace?
A good digital workplace is a great collaboration tool. But it is also so much more.
Your team needs both synchronous and asynchronous communication channels. This means that they need to be able to instantly message and get instant responses, and they also need to be able to leave a less-urgent message and receive a response at their coworker’s convenience.
Project, case, and process management.
Process management allows you to streamline and automate repetitive aspects of your workflow. Case management is a built-in system for dealing with exceptions that arise in your processes. Project management focuses on each unique and specific project. A digital workplace can give everyone a clear view of what’s happening and what needs to be done next.
Every business has a unique set of functions and needs, from CRM software to industry-specific applications. Integration features in a digital workplace can link these apps, consolidating your team’s work in one space and minimizing the amount of task-switching they have to do.
A digital workplace can provide you with detailed insights and measurable goals for your team.
Ok, you say, but what does that look like?
Envision the future of work.
Imagine logging in to your digital workplace each day just as if you’re walking into the front door of the office. Everything and everyone you need to get your job done well is located right there. All the files you need, the customer contact information, the schedules and project details are available with a click of the mouse. You can message coworkers in a topical chat thread or in the context of a specific project, having a conversation in real time that will also be saved for future reference. Or a colleague can leave a question for you alongside a task, and you can respond when you’re available. From the comfort of your home office or the convenience of your favorite coffee shop, you can step into your digital workplace, the workplace of the future.
Dinesh Varadharajan is the Vice President at Kissflow. Dinesh is a hands-on executive with a wide range of experience working with bleeding-edge technologies, developing great products and mentoring highly productive teams. He has profound knowledge in design and technical implementation of BPM solutions. He was recently named one among the Top 100 Great People Managers 2020, by Great Manager Institute & Forbes India.