The world of work is changing fast. Just a few years ago, most firms still maintained a mostly office-based culture, with employees expected to be at their desks from nine to five, Monday to Friday.
But this approach is quickly becoming rather old-fashioned. Although some executives still cling to the idea that you can't be productive unless you're in the office - one of new Twitter boss Elon Musk's first edicts as owner was to cancel the company's home-working policy, for example - they are increasingly becoming a minority.
Instead, flexible and hybrid working, where people split their time between the office and another place of work - usually their home - is growing in popularity. The benefits are clear, and have been known for some time. According to one study by Stanford University, remote workers are 13% more productive than those in the office - the equivalent of almost an extra day of output a week. The same study also found it led to a 50% decrease in employee turnover.
The digital working revolution
Pre-COVID, relatively few workers were able to enjoy these benefits, but that has now changed. One key reason for this is the rise of digital tools that let people be just as productive from the home as the office. There are a range of technologies that have contributed to this, from cloud computing, which has made it easier to access work applications from anywhere, to high-quality collaborative and video conferencing tools, all backed up by faster home broadband capabilities.
If you're setting up a remote or hybrid working environment, two terms you'll doubtless come across a lot are 'digital workplace' and 'digital workspace'. At first glance, you might think these are interchangeable, but in fact, each has its own unique definition and requirements. Knowing exactly what each of these refers to and what the differences are is essential if you're to build a productive flexible working environment.
What is a digital workplace?
A digital workplace refers to the platforms and solutions your employees will use to keep in touch when outside the office, access their work applications and collaborate with colleagues. This needs to be accessible at any time, from any location, and on any device, so it's usually a cloud-based environment. Among the tools and business processes included in this are:
- Collaboration/teamwork apps
- Resolution of issues, flaws and tickets
- Management of multiple workspaces
- Automation of repetitive tasks
- Management of overall access
- Third-party application integration
- Auto-generated reports
There are a range of benefits to deploying digital workplace solutions, such as a smoother employee experience, improved visibility and control over activities when outside the office and easier collaboration.
What is a digital workspace?
The digital workspace, on the other hand, refers to the specific tools that individuals use to actually complete their work when away from the office. This functions as a virtual replica of their workstation, enabling them to easily access data and applications just as they would in the office. Common elements of this include:
- Virtual desktop tools
- File-sharing solutions
- Secure access to cloud-based apps
- Single sign-on technologies
What are the key differences between digital workspaces and digital workplaces?
In essence, the digital workspace is a smaller part of the wider digital workplace - just like the desk where you'd traditionally spend your Monday to Friday is only a small part of a bigger office. But this is not the only difference to be aware of.
1. A virtual equivalent of the physical workspace
The digital workspace effectively functions as the virtual counterpart to your workstation in the office. However, this is only a fraction of the wider workplace. While your workstation contains your critical tools and applications, the workplace covers everything else you might expect to see in an office, including the meeting rooms, collaboration spaces and even the chillout zones where you can unwind and catch up with colleagues.
2. A fixed hub compared with a flexible solution
A key characteristic of a digital workplace is that it is fixed and essentially the same for everyone. It covers all the common tools, applications and infrastructure that people use to do their jobs and collaborate when not in the same physical location.
By contrast, a digital workspace is more flexible and task-specific. Different employees may use their own digital workspace tools depending on their tasks and responsibilities, while still operating within the same digital workplace framework.
3. The workspace is the home of IT
The workspace is also where all the critical IT tools that are essential to making hybrid and remote working a success will lie. While the workplace provides the tools and frameworks needed to manage work, it is the workspace where things actually get done. As such, it's vital that IT teams are able to ensure every application in use - and the data needed to run it - is accessible at all times, across all platforms, no matter where a user is located.
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