What Five Years of Working in a Digital Workplace Has Taught Us

When my co-founder, Anna Marie Etcheverria, and I set out to “create a better way to work from home” back in 2009, we could not have predicted the terrifying and exhilarating journey on which we were about to embark.  As with any start-up, there were highs and lows, right decisions and wrong decisions.

One thing we did right was figure out how to effectively work in a digital workplace, a move we made when we created our own virtual office, Flipside Workspace™.   According to Gartner Research, “A digital workplace enables new and more effective ways of working, improves employee engagement and agility, and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.”  Check, check, and check.

After five years of “going to the office”, we have a pretty good understanding of what works and why for businesses in digital workplaces.  Here’s our top five:

  1. Human-to-Human Relationships Matter…a lot 

Regardless of how many options there are for digital workplaces, much of what is lost in today’s offerings is the ability for real-life human interaction in technology. This is a big differentiator between the “physical workplace” and the “digital workplace”.

Our expectation of any workplace is generally inherent and reasonable. As an example, in a “physical workplace” we can reasonably expect to develop relationships on some kind of an emotional level with our co-workers, clients, customers, vendors, etc. because of the instinctive behavior in persistent presence: we form relationships, we build trust and comfort with one another, we build off of each other’s ideas and truly engage and collaborate.

When we work remotely, however, we have to work especially hard to fill in that void with conscious communication techniques to foster engagement, encourage a mix of face-to-face interactions with digital communication, and select those platforms that foster human-to-human interaction.

Using Flipside Workspace, we’ve managed to develop a few techniques to mimic “physical workplace” experiences such as walking into each other’s office for a quick question, spontaneously introducing clients and colleagues who “pop-in”, or even grabbing others for a larger brainstorming session, such as one would in a physical office building.

2.  Real Engagement Facilitates Conversations

You know that moment before a conference call, or online meeting when you’re not quite sure who is there, who wants to speak, or even who is speaking? Awkward.

It’s time to put the “meet” back in meeting.  No matter what type of digital workplace you use, make sure you are optimizing opportunities for real engagement with the people you are working with, not just clicks and likes.

When we meet with others in Flipside Workspace, we are able to see the conversations happening and join in and interact, much the same way as we gather around and chit chat prior to a meeting in real life.  This valuable time before and after meetings allows participants to talk, connect, and and have meaningful pre- and post- meeting discussions outside of a structured meeting. Ultimately, conversations equal real engagement that builds trust among participants.

3.  Perpetual Presence is Key

It’s one thing to have presence on social media, it’s an entirely different thing to have a perpetual presence in a digital workplace. The difference? We liken it to this: you can either walk in, take your coat off, hang up your hat, and make yourself available to your team, clients, or colleagues for whatever period of time you want, OR you could keep your coat and hat on, briskly walk by your colleagues, pop your head in and tell them you like what they’re wearing, and then walk right on out again. Which is more advantageous?

It’s important to use your digital workplace in a way where people can find you and engage with you beyond the “like” button if they need to.  How do we maintain perpetual presence in Flipside Workspace? It’s as simple as this – we’re either in the office, or we’re not.  We post and hold “office hours” so that our digitally-based clients and colleagues know where and when to find us, they can actually see if we’re sitting at our desks, or even out to lunch.

4. The Importance of Corporate Culture Cannot Be Overlooked

Years ago when I did some recruiting work for a client, one of the critical elements I looked for in a candidate (beyond their skill set) was their cultural fit with the client.  It costs a lot of money to hire and train a new employee, and making sure the new hire would be a cultural fit from the start was a key strategy in reducing staff turnover.

Extending corporate culture into a digital workplace is essential in keeping the trust between geographically dispersed colleagues, building corporate camaraderie, and improving the lines of communication.  From branding to corporate rituals, each element of corporate culture that is mimicked in a digital workplace only serves to enhance the experience and productivity of a digital workforce.

A shared expectation of how a digital workplace is used improves the comfort level and experience for those working in a digital workplace, and it’s just common courtesy!

We’ve developed our own set of protocols and practices that have served us well in our five years of working in this digital place and many of our clients have adopted these as part of their corporate culture.  Contact us directly if you would like to learn more.

5. The Work Environment Matters

We mean this literally and figuratively.

Literally speaking, some people are better suited for an office space in a highrise while others get their energy from working at a park. Either way, it behooves employers to understand that just like a face-to-face workforces, a remote workforce feeds off of its environment too.

However, technology needs to be managed, and it doesn’t make any sense for an employer to offer a smorgasbord of technology options to suit its staff.  A multi-purpose and multi-visual digital platform can solve this problem, bringing all the technology needs AND environment preferences under one roof, so to speak. It just so happens that Flipside Workspace does precisely this.  Read more about Why I Love Working in a Digital Workspace here.

About Lisa Duncan | Alternative Workstyle Enthusiast

Completely and totally passionate about work flexibility, love helping other businesses succeed, aiming to change how we think about workplace. Co-Creator of the digital workplace, www.flipsideworkspace.com., Co-Founder of www.duncancoleverria.com, #huffbost blogger. [Duncan Coleverria]
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