The Evolving Digital Workplace – Lessons Learnt From the Last Three Years

The UK has seen a turbo boost of digital transformation over the past three years across all aspects of business operations, driving further efficiencies and encouraging alternative ways of working.

This acceleration has been brought on in part by the pandemic with the introduction of fully remote, then hybrid, working. In 2020, offices shifted exclusively to digital workplaces, drastically redefining our working practices and now in2022, many office buildings haven’t recovered to full capacity. The in-office vs remote or hybrid working debate continues to dominate the headlines, with the 4-Day Work Week UK trial being the latest example.

With a hundred UK companies transitioning to a four-day working week, not only will business leaders need to step up, but so will company IT. If this transition to more flexible ways of working continues and leads to mass adoption, the Digital Employee Experience must significantly improve. This will further aid staff retention and attract new, excited applicants. DEX will be the driving force to empower a more productive and advanced workplace. To better understand the future technological advances businesses can expect to see, let’s look at how the digital workplace has evolved so far in the past three years.

The Widespread Adoption of AI and Automation

As a result of the early 2020 lockdowns, businesses accommodated to encompass new working practices to help their employees work from home. Now, AI and automation are part of many of the technologies we interact with daily, whether that is watching Netflix, grocery shopping, or virtual doctor’s appointments. According to IDC forecasts, AI systems spend will reach more than $204 billion globally in 2025 and will continue to drive the way businesses operate.

Within the digital workplace, the biggest area of opportunity for AI and automation will be the ability to enhance visibility and remediation of digital issues through monitoring. With an increase in automated visibility, organisations can be more proactive in the IT support they offer to their employees. IT help desks will be able to catch disruptions before employees themselves have a chance to notice errors. This will further support and improve productivity within organisations, providing a positive employee experience while simultaneously reducing costs for the business.

Where Does Shadow IT End?

We saw employees trade their open office floorplans and luxurious meeting rooms for home offices and a myriad of different SaaS applications. Whiteboard brainstorming, which once took place in a conference room, quickly became Zoom, Miro, or Stormboard. While this helped to enable remote working capabilities, it also presented a more complex environment for electronic security and digital workplace teams, who, despite the more complex environment, are tasked with maintaining that seamless working experience.

Organisations provide a finite number of SaaS solutions to help licensing from getting out of hand, but what happens when those solutions don’t meet the needs of every employee? To optimise workflow, many employees will resort to downloading their own applications to get the job done in the most efficient way available to them. Not only does this mean that IT teams can’t remediate the issue when something goes wrong with the application, but it also opens the door to increased cybersecurity risks. Around two thirds of organisations struggle to provide a smooth employee experience and maintain adequate cybersecurity within a remote working environment. But blocking outside applications often leads to delivering a less-than-acceptable experience for employees, so what do companies need to be doing to support their workforce?

Companies need to increase their visibility and look deeper into the complications of Shadow IT. By monitoring the downloads of third-party applications, IT teams can prevent damage to computer hard drives and corrupted servers and deliver on a better digital experience. On average an organisation with 1000 employees has approximately 288 applications. This high number of apps presents thousands of potential risk areas for future IT issues. An understanding into what applications their employees are and are not using will better inform organisations on the more appropriate solutions available to them. Thereby increasing employee satisfaction numbers and improving daily productivity as application usage rises in the future.

No Turning Back on a New Way of Working

As people left their offices behind in 2020 to begin working from home, more possibilities came into view. Employees had more options, forcing them to take a hard look at the organisations they were working for and better determine their priorities. This phenomenon of leaving your company if it didn’t offer the right flexibility was called, “The Great Resignation.”

For many, especially those who planned to work remote full time, technology was among their most important priorities for their workflow. HR and IT leaders ranked poor tech service as the third most influential factor for burnout and employee turnover. The pandemic changed the way that we work and how we use technology to benefit our working practices. Today’s organisations must emphasise the technology they can offer their employees – ensuring its solutions are robust, efficient, productive, and meets the needs of each individual.

The last three years have had a significant impact on the digital workplace industry. While cloud, automation, applications and ‘the Great Resignation’ have all played a part in that, it doesn’t stop there. We continue to face fresh challenges from skills shortages to economic recessions, and this will continue to forge a new wave of innovation and disruptive technologies. But organisations can’t solely rely on what has worked in the past three years, they need to support more disruptive industry technologies to attain a better working future.

About the Author:

Jon Cairns is VP, Technical Services at Nexthink. He has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry, having held a range of leadership roles across consulting, presales, sales and marketing.

Featured image: ©Rene L/