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Workplaces are becoming increasingly digital, but are they really liberating work?

It is impossible to deny that we are living in unprecedented times with the most powerful tools that have existed in human history but it is important to remember that it is still our choice to let technology determine the future of work(life) for us, or change it ourselves.

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Group of young business people are working together in modern office. Creative people with laptop, tablet, smart phone, notebook. Successful hipster team in coworking. Freelancers.
Group of young business people are working together in modern office. Creative people with laptop, tablet, smart phone, notebook. Successful hipster team in coworking. Freelancers.

It was already predicted that remote work will become the new norm by 2025 with a majority of the workforce going remote. But the sudden global pandemic has forced companies to go remote five years too early. While we were supposed to get to this stage anyway, the only difference is that most companies did not have enough time to plan out a detailed remote work strategy. 

With little to no planning, companies had to shuffle and find the best digital tools that could replace physical offices and help employees manage their work effectively. 

Remote work was supposed to be liberating which allowed people to work from anywhere they want, create their own work schedule, and maintain a better work-life balance. Instead, people are now working longer hours than they ever did before and as a direct result, over 73 percent of professionals started feeling burned out as early as April 2020.

The only way to successfully digitize and liberate work is by using the right remote tools and technologies that can support employees and help them perform their best work–and that starts with a digital workplace.

Can digitizing workplaces make work more liberating? 

Yes and no. It depends on how exactly you plan to digitize your workplace and how helpful it is for your employees. Just introducing a few business applications does not digitize a workplace. In fact, introducing too many tools can actually have the opposite effect and make it difficult for employees to manage their work.

Workplaces can only be liberating when they focus on employee experience. The focus shouldn’t be on introducing the latest tools and technologies. Instead, you should incorporate tools that help employees feel liberated so they can perform their best work without getting bogged down by confusing applications with overlapping functionalities.

To make workplaces more liberating, technology should be implemented in such a way that it:

  • Allows employees to work from any location and any device they want 
  • Automates mundane processes and tasks to free up time and make employees more productive 
  • Streamline communication so employees don’t get overwhelmed by constant messages from coworkers
  • Manage project, tasks, and file storage to make it easier to find any work-related data quickly
  • Helps employees work faster instead of slowing them down with complicated interfaces

Challenges faced during digitizing and liberating workplaces 

1- Longer working hours 

Remote employees are 20-25 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts since they have no long morning commutes or excessive coffee breaks with colleagues. But prolonged work with little to no breaks can make remote employees more prone to burnouts. Employees that also have to manage their household chores along with their everyday work became 4.4 times more likely to show signs of burnout. 

2- No clear boundaries between work and personal life

Working from home can often blur the lines between work and personal life. Since most people are quarantining now and staying at home all day, managers assume that they can reach out to employees any time for ‘urgent tasks.’ 

But constantly bombarding employees with messages or asking them to get on an impromptu call with little to no advance notice can overwhelm and hamper their work-life balance. People need downtime to relax and rejuvenate so that they can return back to work feeling energized and motivated. 

3- Lack of community 

When you only see your team members weekly or monthly over video calls, it can be difficult to create close social relationships and strong team bonding. Moreover, it can lead to a lack of community and communication. 

Best practices to make workplaces more liberating

1- Implement BYOD policy

The first step towards liberating the workplace is physical liberation. Implementing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies gives employees the freedom to choose their own device and to work from anywhere they want. Employees are no longer chained to their desks and they can work from a device that they feel the most comfortable with. In fact, BYOD-carrying employees end up working two extra hours every day and value for the company every year.

2- Decrease or completely eliminate email communication

Imagine this: You open your laptop early in the morning, all set to be your most productive self, only to realize you have more than a dozen emails sitting in your inbox. You would then have to spend an hour sifting and organizing the emails to find the most important information which is actually relevant to your work. 

Instead, you can decrease or eliminate email communication completely and replace it with dedicated communication channels where employees can directly interact with each other. You can also create separate communication channels for work and casual communication.

3- Make work asynchronous

With remote work, employees don’t work together from the same office or at the same time. Emphasizing on synchronous work while working remotely only decreases productivity and efficiency. It can also make employees feel restricted.

By making work asynchronous, you can give employees the flexibility, freedom, and liberation that they need to perform their best work. Employees can make sure their part of the work is always finished on time, even when other team members aren’t available.

Introduce digital workplace platforms to make work more liberating

A unified digital workplace platform can make work more liberating by digitizing all the internal business operations and allowing employees to work from any device or location. It integrates all the disparate applications within the organization to make it easier for employees to access work data through a user-friendly interface. A digital workplace offers tools to streamline processes, projects, tasks, cases, and communication.

The future of the workplace

The times we’re living in might seem both unprecedented and challenging, but it is also important to remember that we now have access to the most powerful tools that have existed in all of human history. However, technology evolves fast and businesses that don’t keep up may lose out in the long run compared to businesses that do. So, we can either choose to let the rise of new technology define our work life or make an active effort to shape the future of work as we see it. Either way, change is inevitable and the sooner you drive a work transformation, the better it gets for long term business success. 

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