The phrase “digital workplace” is being heard more and more often these days, but what does it actually mean, and is it even relevant to small businesses that may not have an office?

At its core, the concept is about giving people the tools they need to work together and communicate with customers more effectively. In effect, allowing your staff to access information and work even when they're offsite. Making any place their workplace.

The key thing to know is that the digital workplace revolves around things many employees are already demanding.

• 36% of employees spend at least a day a week away from the office.*
• 51% of employees admit they would ignore company policies that restrict the use of their own technology.
• 66% say they regularly email company files to personal email addresses so they can work from home.**

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a choice between following policy or making their jobs a little easier, people prefer simplicity.

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What is a digital workplace exactly?
The digital workplace is about the combination mobile devices and secure, remote access to business information and apps.

When combined, morning brainwaves on the bus can be refined on a smartphone or tablet and shared before work. Then discussed with colleagues who are out at a customer site via video chat, before evolving into a proactive customer presentation by the end of the day. With cloud storage, work files, drafts and base data can be shared between team members, and even modified collaboratively.

People want this kind of flexibility and when given it, their organisations become smarter, faster and better prepared for opportunities that lie ahead.

And for business owners who need more convincing: 45% of employees say they'd choose flexible working over a pay rise.*** That's hard to ignore.


What technology does the digital workplace require?
Because the digital workplace is about connecting people rather than making changes to an office, it's easy to start small. Here are a few key things to try:

• Use smartphones instead of landlines. Connecting smartphones to the company PBX means calls can be transferred to people even when thay're away from the office.
• Mobile device management. MDM is like a remote control for staff mobiles. If someone loses their smartphone or tablet, it can be wiped or have key services switched off remotely.
• Use instant messaging instead of email. This allows quick, easy, focused conversations and collaboration without cluttering peoples inboxes.
• Upgrade to Fibre (instead of ADSL/VDSL). The fastest internet currently available makes it easier to try video conferencing, file sharing or cloud apps.
• Secure Wi-Fi. Allows staff and visitors to work anywhere around the business - even in the carpark.
• Switch to cloud storage. Save space, boost security and get flexibility to match future growth by ditching the server.


Getting started - some questions to ask.
Vodafone creates digital workspaces in partnership with their customers, while their Christchurch site showcases key technologies for doing business in a digital future.

Ask them about switching your system to a cloud-based "virtual" PBX to give your team total mobility. Next, look at the apps people are already using on their smartphones. Could everyone use them? Ask your people if there are other ways they think technology could make their jobs easier.

Getting your own staff onboard right from the start is a powerful way to make the transition to digital working a lot easier. Because it's about helping them work they way they want to work, they'll be more involved in the process and happier to embrace the change. That's a rare win-win for any business owner.


References (checked): *Vodafone proprietary research
**Vodafone proprietary research
***Vodafone Ready Business Test Results 2015