In reaction to the pandemic, the need to support new working patterns enabled leaders to accelerate the pace of digital workplace technology adoption. Now as organizations reopen their office doors to employees, settle into remote work as the new normal, or determine a long-term hybrid working strategy, IT leaders must prepare to support the new needs of their digital workforce. In the next phase, employees want to enjoy their work more, get it done faster, and find new ways to improve their work quality.

From flexibility to productivity, employee satisfaction to accountability: there are hundreds of puzzle pieces that digital workplace leaders must put into place to ready their organizations for the future of work. Workforce IT has gone from invisible to essential. The challenge is now to move from being reactive to using this momentum to drive real change in how people work. 

Here are three actions that digital workplace leaders can take to help employees work happier, faster, and smarter

1. Develop a technology strategy that prioritizes radical flexibility

Gartner research shows that organizations that offer employees more flexibility around when, where and how much they work consider 55 per cent of their employees to be high performers. Compare that to those that don’t offer a flexible work environment, where the number is only 36 per cent.

Technology plays a significant role in enabling radical flexibility. Use the same — and additional — toolsets you adopted during COVID-19 to support collaboration, calendaring, and meeting capabilities. It’s imperative that you do this in a fair manner — all employees should be able access critical services in the same way. 

2. Minimize distractions caused by digital friction 

Between 2020 and 2021, new tools and technologies were implemented at unprecedented levels. This led to an overwhelming number of notifications, updates, emails, and messages. The result? Digital workers frequently fail to notice important information, because it comes their way faster than they can process it. 

These distractions create a form of digital friction that Gartner defines as the “unnecessary effort an employee has to exert to use data or technology for work.” Address this challenge by clearly communicating best practices for workplace application use, configuring parameters that can accurately measure productive hours, and deploying services and products that deliver only the right information to employees. 

For example, when it comes to using collaboration software, you can establish best practices for notifying an individual team member using an @ tag versus notifying the whole team. Additionally, when selecting new vendors, make a point to assess user experience features; such as subscriptions, notification thresholds, and device notification selection. 

3. Democratize technology to enable a smarter workplace 

Organizations need to be aware of the ways that workplace technology is evolving and support employees in using it. The good news is the underlying technology platform that is the basis for many of these changes is already in place. 

Focus on tools that really change the way work gets done. These tools, which include features for development, automation, analytics, and AI, are key to enabling employees to define their own solutions. Increase the digital dexterity of all users with a new set of skills profiles, such as:

  • Data mavens, who can find and use data to inform any business situation.
  • Process hackers, who can understand business processes and apply low-code or no-code technology to automate them.
  • Smart thinkers, who can demystify AI technologies for their colleagues.

Digital workplace leaders can use a people-centric focus and new momentum to drive change: working happier, faster and smarter. Gartner’s recommendations can transform these aspirations into tangible actions.

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Michael Woodbridge is a Senior Research Director at Gartner, Inc. covering digital workplace and collaboration technologies. Gartner analysts will discuss the latest trends impacting the digital workplace and the future of work at the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit, taking place virtually in the Americas June 21-22.

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