A complete guide to transforming your business into a virtual work environment that facilitates collaboration, innovation, and productivity
Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a virtual PBX system and modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level
Business technology is constantly evolving and business leaders are growing to recognize the value of establishing a productive and collaborative virtual work environment. The workplace no longer has to center around a physical location, with businesses able to operate through digital platforms that can be accessed from anywhere by employees with access to the internet.
However, setting up a digital workplace means more than just equipping employees with cloud-based software. We’re talking about a virtual work environment that allows staff to access their full office capabilities wherever they’re based.
In this post, we’ll discuss the benefits of a digital workplace and how you can get the most from it for your business and workforce.
A “digital workplace” includes all the cloud-based tools and data necessary to allow employees to carry out their roles from anywhere. From spreadsheet and inventory management software, communications and collaboration tools, to reporting and analytics solutions, the ideal digital workplace rolls all your in-office functions into one online access point.
Whether we’re talking about managers allocating resources or customer support logging tickets into your CRM, a virtual work environment means this can all happen remotely.
You’ll need to integrate customer-facing functions, which means centralized data management is a must. Process automation will be needed to help with digital workflow management.
Developing an effective virtual workplace also requires you to build a business culture around digital working. Allowing for remote work is one thing, but adjusting to manage and coordinate an entire organization remotely is another.
Transitioning from the office to a virtual work environment can be a huge task. But there are many tangible benefits to doing so. Small businesses and startups actually have an advantage here, as they’re able to build for a digital environment from the start.
Compared to the costs of maintaining and running an office property, businesses can make huge savings by going digital. Cloud hosting isn’t free, but it’s much cheaper than physical maintenance costs.
Other business systems that are vital to the digital workplace, like small business VoIP, are also cheaper to run than their analog equivalents.
On top of that, less tangible effects of the digital workplace—like your workforce’s increased productivity, continuity of operations, retention and decreased absenteeism—will have significant effects on your bottom line.
Being tied to a single head-office location might be the traditional business mentality, but it can actually be very restrictive for a growing business. Being tied to one place can limit the worker talent pool and your acquirable market size.
A digital workplace allows for remote work from many locations all over the world. This means you can engage international customers and recruit more widely. Plus, your business gains some protection from shifting local social and economic conditions.
The most contentious question about virtual working is how it affects productivity. Many business leaders have been reluctant to adopt it due to fears that productivity would drop. It turns out, remote workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts.
A recent survey found that 40% of remote workers make more efficient use of work hours and are more productive on average. Beware of taking that as a definitive rule though, as analysis suggests there’s a large variation between roles and individuals.
Nonetheless, many employees are happier working from home at least part of the time. Happy employees mean increased productivity.
Going digital opens up more options for your recruiters. Not only can you employ remote staff from around the world, but can also advertise your flexibility to attract new hires. According to recent findings, 82% of US workers want to work remotely at least once a week.
That’s compelling evidence that a virtual work environment will help you attract new talent. As your reputation for flexibility and employee satisfaction increases, you’ll also find it’s easier to attract a higher standard of applicant.
If you already have an established business, creating a digital workplace will take time and planning. Whether you’re building from scratch or moving existing infrastructure, there are a few key areas you should focus on for a successful digital transformation.
Having a remote team doesn’t mean communication has to suffer. Though if you don’t have coherent mediums of communication and strategy, it certainly will. Ensuring that you have a streamlined and organized communications network is vital to managing workflows in a digital environment.
Employees need a clear reporting structure and organized task assignments to stay productive in a remote setting. Managers need a way to monitor tasks and projects, as well as communicate and collaborate with employees.
Using a robust cloud communication platform can help you roll these functions together. This gives employees a way to communicate across a range of channels, no matter where they’re based.
You also need to consider employee engagement. It’s easy for staff to become isolated in remote scenarios. This can lead to disengagement and kill motivation. Having a strong internal social network that employees at all levels can participate in is one solution.
Having opportunities for connection outside of normal work tasks can make up for the touchpoints you lose when you move out of the office. This also opens up avenues for employee support and development, like digital workgroups and mentoring.
Even remote teams need to work together. Collaboration tools are an important part of your digital workplace. A virtual environment needs to go further than just tools for collaborating on tasks, though.
You need to facilitate collaboration from a business strategy level all the way to the production level. That means that your executive team needs a way to collaborate on decision-making and strategic planning as much as your dev-ops team needs to collaborate on product development.
Adopting robust remote workforce management software will allow you to bridge communication gaps so that employees throughout your organization can collaborate effectively and efficiently.
Your digital workplace will produce a lot of usable data. Managing this data effectively is key to your success. A virtual environment is a paperless workplace, so you‘ll need to utilize technology like cloud data storage and document management tools.
Managing this data from a central resource will help with coordinating customer data, business data, and usable analytics. Make sure you have an effective records management system as well as strong internal data-sharing capabilities.
For established businesses, this can mean carrying out mainframe application modernization. Fortunately, there are APIs that can make the process of digitizing legacy systems much less painful.
Management can be a challenge with remote teams. But digitizing your project and process management will lead to more effective workflow management. Business intelligence tools can help provide the analytics needed to identify and optimize processes.
You can automate workflows and processes more easily with a fully digital system. Automated scheduling can help your business put more resources into employee development and growth—with less time spent on time-consuming and repetitive tasks.
Security is a top priority for a digital workplace. Contrary to popular belief, though, a virtual work environment isn’t any more vulnerable to security threats than an office—a strategy that focuses on just digital protection can make your data protection easier to manage.
When you start planning to build your digital workplace, consider what confidential information you’ll be sharing and how you’ll determine access rights. Make sure you still provide security training to remote employees, especially if they’re working with collaboration tools or customer data.
These are some common pitfalls businesses fall into with digitization. Here are our tips on how to avoid them.
Streamlining your business tools is essential in a digital workplace. You want a combined platform where employees can access whatever resources they need. Having too many different tools on different interfaces won’t help with a smooth transition.
You’ll also need to consider the fact that any disruption to your online services could have a major impact on your business. Over-reliance on multiple online services means more opportunities for things to go wrong. You’ll need streamlining and contingency planning.
Contingency planning can come in many forms depending on your business. A good example would be having a backup in case your payment system goes down (e.g. store customer payment details securely until transactions can be processed).
This can really harm your productivity. If employees aren’t sure where to go for support or they don’t have a clear line of communication with management, delays are inevitable. Having defined processes for task assignment, support, and issue reporting is vital.
A digital workplace might require a cultural shift in your business. With the right tools and technology, you can do anything remotely that you could do in an office. You’ll still need to adapt to the differences a remote environment demands, though.
Embracing open communication and collaboration are key supporting pillars. Engaging your employees is just as important. Building a digital culture that helps your employees succeed starts with understanding individual roles and processes.
Then, you can build out your technology stack in a direction that empowers all of your employees to succeed. If you’re still asking questions like “what is a virtual phone number?”, then you’ll need to update your culture in line with your technology.
Remote work now accounts for 60% of US economic activity, and though it has many advantages, businesses must put in substantial work to establish a virtual working environment that enables employees to be as effective as they would be onsite.
Follow our tips to help your business achieve high employee productivity and engagement and reach its full potential.
Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a virtual PBX system and modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.