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The digital
workplace user
experience:
Adapting to
a new reality

Author: Phil Muncaster

The world of work has changed dramatically over the past 18 months. In many ways, the very notion of what defines a "workplace" and its employee experience has been turned on its head. Today, it's no longer only a physical place but a virtual space where colleagues communicate, collaborate and where careers are now being developed. This makes effective digital strategy an essential prerequisite for business success. It means not just finding the best tools to drive communication and collaboration, but also educating the workforce how best to use them securely.

The digital workplace user experience may very well be the difference between business success and failure in the post-pandemic era.

Roadblocks to success

According to researchers at the University of Chicago, 20% of full workdays will be home-based after the pandemic versus just 5% before. In fact, 55% of business employees say that after the pandemic is no longer a concern they would like to work remotely at least three days a week—and 29% would prefer to work remotely for five full days each week. Similarly, research from PwC found that 44% of employers feel that their company is currently performing better than they were before the pandemic at collaborating on new projects and coaching employees to succeed. That's a bold vision of a future hybrid workplace where digital technologies play a key role in helping remote users stay happy and productive.

So with this positive feedback from employers, what's holding businesses back from evolving to digital workplaces?  A common list of key roadblocks include:

Insufficient IT resources

IT is increasingly a bottleneck for digital projects, as skills shortages and gaps compound budget constraints to slow down the rate of innovation. While worldwide IT funding declined by 7.3% in 2020 as a response to pandemic resource shortages, it will grow by 6.2% this year to attempt to accommodate these kinds of transformations.

An aversion to risk

Embarking on a digital journey can appear to be a daunting prospect, especially if your organization is culturally risk-averse.  The adoption of new tools and virtual processes, along with additional employee training may seem complicated and overwhelming.

Cultural preferences

When it comes to the employee experience, 68% of executives surveyed by PwC felt that to maintain a distinct company culture, employees need to be in the office at least three days a week.  If, culturally, your business remains rooted in pre-pandemic norms around office attendance, the shift to a digital employee experience will likely be slower.

The wrong tools

It goes without saying that if you don't invest in the right technology, it will impact the digital workplace user experience.  For example, the sheer volume of unified communication and collaboration (UCC) tools on the market may be overwhelming to decision makers.  Additionally, if the employee experience is sub-par, then projects will struggle as user productivity and satisfaction rates slump.

Education and communication issues

Even if you buy the right tools, there could be significant pushback from users.  Promoting open, two-way engagement for new digital projects are more likely to succeed when you include:

  • Education and training in how to use the new solutions effectively
  • Clear communication on how the new technologies will benefit users and the company
  • A transition plan including the business reasons supporting these new ways of working
  • Frequent updates about the progress of deployments
  • In-person, online, and anonymous feedback and suggestions

Security concerns

Security concerns can be a major barrier to accelerating the shift to a digital workplace. More than a year into the pandemic, 82% of businesses remain concerned about potential cyber security risks due to remote work. Challenges could potentially arise at an endpoint device, home network and/or at the application layer. That's why security needs to be built into projects from the start, with carefully thought-out remote working policies, new end-user security awareness and training programs, and additional management tools.

Improving the digital workplace user experience

The most popular components for enhanced collaboration include:

  • Video conferencing
  • Instant message (IM)/chat
  • Project collaboration
  • File sharing
  • Shared calendars
  • Cloud-based document collaboration
  • Online training
  • Secure IP sharing
  • Project management
  • Real-time inventory
  • Shared whiteboards

UCC tools can take a lot of the cost and integration pain away by combining some or all of the above. Here are some other suggestions to enhance the digital workplace user experience:

  • Define workplace personas to better understand employee needs and user journeys.
  • Consider smart meeting technology, which enables users to record meetings and highlight key points for those not attending.
  • Consider noise-canceling technology that can block out background noise and improve concentration.
  • Prioritize simplicity for users through tools that integrate seamlessly with popular platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Workplace.
  • Evaluate augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools for immersive remote customer experiences, employee training and enhanced field support.
  • Don't forget the network: 70% of U.S. executives are planning to increase IT funding specifically to secure virtual connectivity.
  • Evaluate the right security layers and engage with security experts to help perform due diligence from the start.

The benefits of an enhanced employee experience

Although there are some hurdles to overcome, organizations that have cracked the digital workplace user experience are already reaping the rewards. According to data collected from two surveys conducted in June and December 2020, employee respondents' feelings of productivity working remotely increased from 28% in June to 34% in December. Similarly, over half (52%) of employers in December felt that their business is more productive working remotely (increasing from 44% in June). Other clear benefits include:

  • Mitigating future risk: Ensuring business continuity was a top driver for organizations, according to the Harvard Business Review.
  • Reducing costs: Businesses are able to reduce costs by consolidating some operations onto integrated UCC platforms and outsourcing their management to trusted third parties operating in the cloud. Meeting virtually also helps to reduce operational costs.
  • Enhancing end-customer experiences: This, in turn, will drive improved loyalty, brand value and profits.
  • Attracting the brightest and best: New generations of workers entering the workforce expect seamless, user-friendly experiences at every turn.
  • Accelerating innovation and agility: Research from PwC also suggests that 41% of employers feel that their company is innovating more effectively on products or services while only 18% felt that they have been less innovative.
  • Leveraging analytics: Digital tools produce lots of data that can be analyzed to drive additional productivity and efficiency improvements.

Learn how Verizon can help you improve your digital workplace user experience and ultimately drive the employee experience, and your organization as a whole, forward.