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Ten ways your digital workplace strategy is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

At the moment most business decisions are being made with reference to the current pandemic; its impact on the way we work now and in the near future is profound.

This is particularly true when it comes to digital workplace strategy. For many organisations the digital workplace has proved to be essential during lockdown; the successful scaling-up of remote working and collaboration and communication tools like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online and Zoom has ensured that businesses can continue with some of their operations. Now things have normalized a little, many businesses are now considering the next steps for their digital workplace strategy.

There is still the need for flexibility and adaptability; we dont know quite how long the pandemic will go on for. There may need to be the re-introduction of lockdown measures and the global economy is extremely fragile.

However it is important that organisations consider their digital workplace strategy not just for the shorter term, but also in the longer term too;  most observers think that the pandemic will have a long lasting impact on the digital workplace, acting as a catalyst for trends relating to flexible working, online collaboration and digital employee experience that were already happening.

The pandemic impacts multiple areas of your digital workplace strategy. Heres our view of ten of the most important areas to consider.

1. The next stage of maturity

The digital workplace has matured considerably in the past three months; it is now scaled-up, with cutting edge collaboration tools rolled-out. Previously the focus for the strategy was on rolling out the tools and driving higher usage but this has now been achieved.  Therefore, any strategy needs to address the question what is the next stage of maturity on our overall digital workplace journey? Opportunities and choices that were not available previously are now available for many organisations.

2. Business continuity

The pandemic has completely changed business continuity with scaled-up remote working and a robust digital workplace now at the centre of any plans. With the pandemic still unpredictable and with no end in sight, this capability needs to remain in place while lockdowns are still likely.

Going forward it seems likely that business continuity will continue to focus on this, considering the chances of future health crises and extreme weather events. Naturally, any digital workplace strategy needs to consider all the elements required for robust digital continuity such as infrastructure, connectivity, bandwidth, security, collaboration tools and so on, ensuring that the majority of employees can switch to working remotely with very short notice.

3. Offices and the physical workplace

The pandemic has changed the game in terms of the physical workplace; not only do premises need to be safe through social distancing but may also need to be reduced in size to reflect more home and remote working. In the longer term, Real Estate functions may also change their strategy to focus more on local or flexible spaces. Your digital workplace strategy will need to align with your physical workplace plans to ensure staff are supported by technology when working in physical locations.

4. Adoption, digital literacy and support

In the past, efforts to increase the adoption of digital workplace tools has all too often focused on increasing the number of people using the tools. The pandemic has, more or less, meant the numbers of employees using Zoom or Teams is now much higher than it was before.

A digital workplace strategy needs to cover where to focus efforts on adoption through digital literacy initiatives, training and support processes. Rather than concentrating on increasing the number of daily active users, it may have more value to look at how to get the best value out of tools through optimum usage. Some observers have suggested that some employees have simply swapped ways of working in the office and replicated them online; they are missing out on better ways of working such as asynchronous collaboration. This is a key area to cover in a digital workplace strategy.

5. Costs and productivity

Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to an extremely fragile global economy for the foreseeable future. Any digital workplace strategy is likely to need to navigate severe budgetary constraints or focus investment in areas that help drive efficiency and productivity, while also reducing costs.

6. Governance

Some level of digital workplace governance is usually required to deliver a sustainable and successful digital workplace. However, inevitably, when IT teams scrambled to scale up remote working in days or rolled-out Teams in record time, a few shortcuts, temporary measures, and workarounds had to be followed. Expediency tends to be the enemy of longer-term focused governance measures.

However, now that perhaps the dust has settled a little, it is quite possible that digital workplace teams can start to be introduce some level of process and governance that got missed in the earlier days of the pandemic, such as putting in some steps around site provisioning for collaboration tools. Governance measures will give a longer-term focus for your digital workplace strategy.

7. Digital engagement and communication

The pandemic has brought many challenges for employees and managers around digital communication and engagement. This is particularly true for teams that previously only worked together in the same physical location. While many teams have adjusted well, the realities of working through the pandemic requires that the right digital engagement and communication tools are in place to support employees, teams and managers.

8. More apps and tools for virtual teams

As teams start to gel and get more comfortable working together virtually, it might be the time to start to introduce new apps and tools that support more sophisticated online collaboration such as whiteboards. More specifically, there may be apps that are required by different functions. Any digital workplace strategy is likely to need to cover the new apps and tools required that can help virtual teams get their work done.

9. Measurement and analytics

Measurement and analytics tend to be one of the problem areas of the digital workplace; here  practices are less mature and tend to take a tool by tool view rather than looking holistically across the whole ecosystem. However, interest in some areas such as workforce and people analytics is growing.

The new scaled-up remote working requires a review of analytics. Not only do the increase in digital workplace interactions provide new opportunities to derive new insights, the change in working methods may also require a rethink of how performance is measured. Overall, any digital workplace strategy needs to look at metrics with fresh eyes and consider new approaches.

10. Supporting innovation

In a difficult economic climate, innovation becomes increasingly important. Innovation through the creation of new products and services, or new processes to drive efficiency, or delivery methods that take into account the post-pandemic world, can help businesses through challenging times. Invariably, innovation is facilitated by digital workplace tools that support collaboration but also help to gather ideas; any strategy may need to explicitly address how the digital workplace will support innovation going forward.
A digital workplace strategy the pandemic and post-pandemic world

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the way we do business and the way we work. Digital workplace strategies need to consider the challenges and even some  of the opportunities that are happening in the shift in working patterns and priorities. If youd like to discuss your digital workplace strategy in the light of the pandemic, then get in touch.

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