The COVID-19 pandemic and its rapid onset had most institutions unprepared. But one thing became clear all too soon—there would be a permanent change in how people would continue to work in the future. The definition of an office changed from a physical location where employees gathered in to work for a fixed number of hours a day to one akin to a digital workplace.

A transformation to making the digital workplace a reality was only possible with companies embracing technologies which were already in use, along with a few additional resources, to keep things running. It required a shift in the way communication is handled and a change in the experience of work for an employee.

So, what had to change when the pandemic began to make itself known worldwide? Here’s what happened:

  • Bye Bye Physical Office, Hello Remote Working

While a few companies were open to the idea of having employees opt for remote working, pre-pandemic most companies still functioned from a physical office. This shift to remote working proved to be a challenge to those employees who were not as technologically educated- but that’s where the learning curve began. Employers had to understand and adapt to working style flexibility, which brings us to the next point.

  • Alterations in Work Habits

Remember those days when you would be dragged into a meeting for an hour, listening to what could very well have been an email? Now, online meetings are called for only if deemed absolutely necessary. Companies that had strict HR policies on biometric check-ins formerly began to embrace the concept of a digital workplace. Yes, this meant employees could sleep in a little longer before they had to make their presence felt online, but it also meant that they would have to spend more time and learn to adopt a few new tools and technologies to continue to work as they did before.

  • A Focus on Mental Health

While physical health was always deemed a priority, over the course of the pandemic, there has been a shift in companies trying to lend a hand in ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. After the initial honeymoon period of working from home had passed, it became more of a scenario of ‘living at work’ than ‘working from home’. The pandemic is a stressful time for everyone and one good thing that seems to have come out of it is an improved understanding and focus on ensuring mental health. Many companies are urging their employees to head out on ‘workcations’ for a change of space from the monotony of working from home.

When the future of work became the present with employers and employees becoming more flexible, the digital workplace began to thrive- and how. Over the past three decades, there has already been a palpable transformation in the workforce owing to the increased dependency on IT tools.

  • The workforce being absorbed is a younger and more technologically aware crowd, but they lack the knowledge and experience that the current retiring workforce possesses.
  • We live in an age of data and information overload. The rate of this incoming information cannot be managed and interpreted by the existing workforce, despite advances in technology.
  • Data overload is one thing- the speed at which things happen today, is another. The workforces of the present need to be increasingly collaborative and efficient problem solvers to get their job done as soon as possible.

Let’s look at what needs to be part of your company’s toolkit for the imminent digital transformation of your workplace.

  1. Mobility-enabling tools

The first step of shifting from an office workspace to a digital working space is allowing all employees to be able to work remotely with access to office-issued desktops, mobile phones and the like. This allows all employees to seamlessly transition into the new normal.

  1. Communication tools

Inter and intra-personal communication tools are a priority, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, for the effective functioning of a digital workplace. Consider investing in technology that allows members of your office to communicate among themselves (email, instant messaging, mobile messaging) as well as tools to share information and updates internally (intranet, blogs). This category could also include collaborative tools like web conferencing, meeting rooms and communities to enable ideation, planning and excecution.

  1. Productivity & Business tools

This category refers to the technology that enables employees to complete their jobs in an unproblematic manner. This may include access to word processors, presentations software and spreadsheets. Under the umbrella of business tools falls CRM softwares, HR systems and so on for employees to access and use.

While the factors above allow a smooth transition into a digital workplace, it is imperative that companies intend on continuing these practices in the long run. After running a series of tests to measure your company’s productivity over the course of the pandemic, it would be wise to consider dragging these practices into the future. Even as the spread of COVID-19 decelerates, offering employees the option to work in a split manner with part in-office and the remaining half remotely, would benefit all parties.