Re-imagining the Office for the Digital Age
Singapore, July 11, 2018
The office of today is no longer filled with rows of identical cubicles where employees spend their nine-to- five. New forms of work are emerging, and increasingly, they require only a computer and an internet connection for the job to be done.
To cater to employees’ changing demands for mobile work and a collaborative culture, many organisations are now designing a new type of working environment: the digital workplace.
By incorporating a host of technologies such as instant messaging, enterprise social media networks and virtual meeting platforms, the digital workplace is a business strategy that aims to break down communication barriers, fostering efficiency, innovation and growth1.
Meeting the needs of the millennial workforce
As things stand now, arriving at the office can feel like going back in time, technologically speaking: while the consumer apps you use every day on your phone are intuitive, collaborative and easy to use, enterprise apps and interfaces lag far behind. Not only do you have to manually log into databases, you also can't switch from one app to another with just a swipe. Data can’t be shared across systems the same way social media apps are able to automatically import your contacts.
This disparity between enterprise and consumer apps can be a source of frustration, particularly for millennials, digital natives that are set to comprise half of the global workforce by 20202. “In the workplace, employees are expecting—even demanding—mobility and social networks in their workflow,” said Ms Tay Siow Yen, Director of Solution Centre, NCS. “They want to be able to work anytime and anywhere, as well as incorporate social networking apps into the work they do.”
In the digital workplace, the employee experience is a top priority. App modernisation—the redesigning of enterprise apps to make them seamless, integrated and user-friendly—is thus a key feature of 21st century offices. In addition, the adoption of new apps, tools and platforms can help employees improve their productivity even as they keep mobile and flexible working arrangements. Virtual assistants, for example, can offer customised recommendations and decision support, and file sharing systems that sync in real time can help employees access up-to-date documents from wherever they are—be it at home, in a café or even on the beach.
Driving a culture of collaboration
Millennials are also often referred to as the ‘collaboration generation’. They seek comfort working in groups that offer them a sense of belonging, and prefer collaborating over competing. They are comfortable with technology and want to use it to connect with the world and build deeper, more globalised connections.
“Fundamentally, it is a very different way of working. The older generation tends to prefer to hold discussions during a face-to-face meeting, but younger workers leverage all sorts of digital tools for communication,” Ms Tay said. As this generation becomes the majority of the workforce, companies are looking into restructuring work processes and systems to cater to them.
For example, collaboration can be encouraged through organisational wikis, web-conferencing, crowd-sourcing platforms and messaging apps such as the widely used Slack. App integration, which allows for the incorporation of third-party bots, virtual assistants and data analytics tools into collaborative
platforms, also gives employees more options to tackle challenges at work.
Letting the results speak for themselves
By focusing on employees—what they need, how they work and how they engage with their work—the digital workplace also helps businesses attract and retain top talent. In fact, 64 percent of employees would opt for a lower paying job if they could work away from the office3.
With the information and tools to complete their work from wherever they are, employees are empowered to be more engaged and productive. This in turn translates to an enhanced customer experience, which will bring a competitive advantage to the business, Ms Tay said.
App modernisation, new collaborative platforms and flexible working arrangements can first be introduced through agile prototyping, proof-of-concept and pilot projects, Ms Tay suggested. “These initiatives will allow operational-level employees to experience how the solutions can aid them in their day-to-day tasks in a progressive manner. At the same time, the organisation will be able to assess the suitability of the solution for the company before committing to a new system entirely. It is always through the prototyping process that ideas are tested and resistance is ironed out.”
Once staff see the efficiency that new tools can bring to their daily work, it will be easier to scale the solution to a broader level. “Getting buy-in from the internal stakeholders is important because they play a crucial role in moving your business forward. Better internal change management can directly translate to better performance for the end customers,” Ms Tay said.
1. Deloitte (2012), The digital workplace: Think, share, do, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/mx/Documents/human-capital/The_digital_workplace.pdf
2. PricewaterhouseCoopers (2012), Millennials at work,reshaping the workplace in financial services, https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/financial-services/publications/assets/pwc-millenials-at-work.pdf
3. Cisco Systems (2014), The Cisco Connected World Technology Report, https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/solutions/collateral/enterprise/connected-worldtechnology-report/cisco-2014-connected-worldtechnology-report.pdf