08/09/2015

By Stuart Hearn, CEO of OneTouchTeam

Not all of our predictions about technology have been spot on. We’re still not cruising around on hover boards despite what Back to the Future led us to believe, and we’re yet to see the invention of television holograms that make us feel like we’re actually at a football match rather than just watching it in our living room.

While we’ve been dreaming of hover boards and holograms though, one part of our lives that has become increasingly digital is our workplaces.

More than half of us could be regularly working remotely by 2022, and as the popularity of the digital workplace continues to rise, businesses are looking to effectively digitise their workspace without compromising their ability to communicate and collaborate with their employees.

It’s not all that easy though. Big companies like Yahoo and Reddit have renounced remote working completely, claiming that workers were more productive when they were in the same place. The snappy memo from Yahoo’s HR head Jackie Reses claimed: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Remote working gurus, 37signals, on the other hand, reckon that Yahoo got it all wrong. “Work doesn’t happen at work,” writes co-founder Jason Fried. “If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond ‘the office.’”

While it may be true that remote workers are more productive in their own space than a shared workspace, employers and managers still face challenges. A study conducted by Brandman University found the key concerns for managers of virtual workforces were earning trust (57%), effectively communicating with remote employees (49%) and managing projects and deadlines successfully (43%).

Designing a digital workplace that makes communication king in order to maximise trust and successfully manage projects and deadlines is the goal for all virtual teams. Missing it could be detrimental for your business and will most likely lead to employees being back in the office.

Creating the right working environment starts with using the right tools. Software applications which can be accessed by multiple employees from any location and at any time boost productivity and team collaboration. They facilitate the cohesive sharing of information and provide a space for interaction.

Remote working software options are extensive, but most commonly workforces will invest in software for face-to-face communication and video conferencing, file sharing and storage, project management, time tracking and invoicing, as well as staff leave planning and absence management.

As Terri Griffith, author of The Plugged-In Manager, says: “It takes a thoughtful combination of people, technology, and process to gain the value of virtual work.” Design a successful digital workplace doesn’t just happened at the press of a button. The team has to pull together, invest in the right technology and find a working process that suits the company in order to succeed.

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