While headlines like "How robots will steal your job" can strike fear in the hearts of employees, the digital workplace of the future will be a far more human environment than many think.
That's the view of Vodafone's Enterprise Director, Ken Tunnicliffe, who says creating digital workplaces will bring about an exciting and prosperous future, not our worst fears.
"The Digital Workplace is a term people are becoming used to hearing, but it's often misunderstood," he says. "It's about connecting people as opposed to making changes to your office fit-out."
Businesses must take a human-centric approach, which means prioritising people and building technology solutions around them, not the other way around.
"You don't need an endless budget and an architect. You need a mindset that work is what you do, not where you do it, and to give your team the tools and flexibility to connect and collaborate from anywhere."
A digital workplace embodies many elements employees in New Zealand are already demanding – like flexible working and the work anywhere concept. If they are able to apply them, the proven link between productivity and profit comes into play.
Vodafone's research has highlighted some interesting trends in New Zealand:
- 36% of employees spend at least a day a week away from the office.
- 51% 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.
- 45% say they'd choose flexible working over a pay rise.
The latter point is hard to ignore, says Tunnicliffe, and so are some of the results that have seen US companies like Verizon, Walmart and Starbucks adopt digital workplace solutions to increase collaboration, communication and employee engagement (Huffington Post, November 21).
In the UK, a study by Lancaster University predicted flexible working will be a mainstay for over 70 per cent of organisations by 2020. Those who had already introduced flexible working successfully had improved productivity, happier workforces and reduced turnover.
The Centre for Economic and Business Research estimated it could add £11.5 billion to the British economy with more adoption of a flexible work anywhere culture.
"The Digital Workplace is a way of working that any business can implement and benefit from," says Tunnicliffe. "It empowers every employee to become a connected employee, equipped with the right tools and technology.
"In our experience, this facilitates greater collaboration, enhances employee engagement and increases productivity. Ultimately, it also creates and drives a culture of innovation."
It also meets changing employee needs: "Flexible working will play a key role in attracting and retaining the best talent. Digital natives in particular expect to be able to connect and work from anywhere, but this is fast becoming a basic employee expectation more broadly."
People want this kind of flexibility and, when given it, their organisations become smarter, faster and better prepared for opportunities that lie ahead, says Tunnicliffe.
"Digital transformation is almost universally accepted by businesses as something they need to do, but many find it intimidating, or downright scary," he says. "It doesn't need to be; the important thing is to make a start on the journey."
Vodafone research this year shows that 31 per cent of New Zealand businesses with more than 30 employees are using unified communications (combining previously separate communication and collaboration tools into a single system) and plan to increase their investment in it.
It also shows that 78 per cent of business goes to the company which responds first and 89 per cent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after poor customer service – aspects of business which can be enhanced by a digital workplace approach.
New Zealand businesses can easily take their first step into the digital workplace by using smartphone instead of landlines, mobile device management (MDM), instant messaging to replace email, and upgrading to secure WiFi and cloud storage with a high speed fibre connection.
Tunnicliffe says employees are not only open to digital transformation but in many cases are its driving force. If the digital workplace is designed around their needs and priorities, they will be very engaged in the process and happy to embrace the change.