In the era of hybrid working a connected workplace is essential for a productive and successful business.
A connected workplace integrates various technology tools so everyone can communicate and collaborate effectively: this shared system makes it far easier to manage a workforce that works both in and out of the office. Businesses run more efficiently, people find it frictionless to work together, there is greater certainty all round and leaders enjoy greater control over time, resources and office capacity.
The ‘workplace’ has changed
A few years ago the connected workplace mainly referred to a physical, bricks and mortar office. Employees would sit behind a computer screen (using the same model of computer), chat in the kitchen and meet in the conference rooms. Connection and collaboration would most often come from face to face interaction.
The biggest challenge would be keeping a connection between different sites. Achieving this would often involve video conferences or a telephone sitting in the middle of the meeting desk, largely ignored by those physically present.
Now the definition of a workplace has expanded. Increased flexible working, driven by the pandemic, means many more of us spend more time at home and the day to day connections of office life have been weakened. Different locations are used for different reasons: large shared spaces are excellent for collaborative team meetings while spare bedrooms at home often work best for those moments when we just need to get our heads down and work.
Reduced personal facetime has meant one of the main forms of connecting has been loosened. Employees may also be using different computers and mobile phone systems that don’t talk to each other without a tech solution. It’s easy for them to feel alone and not part of the team when working from their home office.
The connected workplace meets these challenges and even improves on the way things were done before.
What does a connected workplace look like?
The contemporary connected workplace is therefore a place where these challenges have been successfully met using systems that work together and make people part of the same team. Good tools can marry the digital and physical together. Technology is used to facilitate communication, align schedules and allow people to get the most out of their time in an office which may have been radically restructured to meet the new ways of working. Mobile and desktop technology speak to each other and work in harmony.
The connected workplace inspires a sense of belonging in employees. They can get things done with workflows that run smoothly and communication channels that give them access to people when they need them. It is also a place where leaders have more control over their resources and use data to make positive changes.
The benefits of a connected workplace
Flexible working is not something that is being forced on employers. Many are now seeing the advantages it offers and, in particular, how a connected workplace can give them the control to make it work, saving cost and increasing productivity. The benefits of a connected workplace include:
- Cost-efficiency: as well as reduced energy and broadband costs, money can be saved on computer equipment if employers bring their own devices to work. Cheaper email systems such as Google Apps can also be utilized. A connected business is cost efficient by its very nature in that it allows people to get on with their work rather than using their time to manage or arrange schedules.
- Connectivity from anywhere – employees are able to work wherever they are most productive whether that’s at home or hot desking in the office. Commuter time can be transformed into productive time.
- Being connected means streamlined workflows with fewer barriers. Decisions can be immediate, discussions take place in real time and not when the team can next get together.
- There is the ability to get a better understanding of a business’ work landscape with data that allows for continuous improvement and rapid recognition of where potential gaps may be in processes
- Improved accessibility – you can also potentially open your talent pool when location is not an issue. Hire globally and hire those who may have struggled to travel to your previous locations due to transport links or physical challenges.
- You can boost employee experience and engagement. A connected office is a transparent office with everyone working on the same systems. It’s easier to give an opinion or share an idea. Those who don’t normally speak out in meetings can make their voices known later using internal channels such as Slack.
The connected workplace just works
The most important point is that a connected workplace brings order to chaos and provides certainty to employees. It facilitates collaboration when people can see when their team is in the office and then book them in straight from their calendar. And it helps with capacity issues – the connected office offers the data insights needed to optimize the office space.
How to create a connected workplace
Before you can successfully implement a connected workplace, you need to ensure you have all the tools and tech in place to create a smooth connection and collaboration between teams and employees. At this stage it is important to establish exactly what you need in order to make the most of your initial outlay on technology.
None of this necessarily means having to change the entire way you work. Indeed, your legacy system may be a good starting point for creating a connected workplace. Condeco’s room booking apps and desk scheduling software for example can be easily integrated with the Microsoft suite.
Listen without prejudice
As a starting point, speak to employees about how they work best. Don’t simply assume one approach will apply for everyone. People are different and some employees may be happiest working from home most days of the week whilst others prefer the more social aspects of the office where they feel they work better face to face. Listen to both with an open mind.
Keep communications open and honest when creating your connected office. That means transparency from the top as well as a voice from employees at all other levels. It can be useful to create an employee center which is a general forum for people’s opinions and ideas. A chat app such as Slack or Teams can be broken down into channels as well as general topics and can help everyone feel a sense of belonging.
Socializing is still an important aspect of building your culture so not every channel needs to be about business. Give people the spaces where they feel comfortable even if it’s just talking about television programmes or their hobbies. When people are talking ideas can emerge from anywhere. Keep focusing on employee development. Make sure everyone has the skills they need to use your technology.
If your company is large then some form of centralized employee directory will be important to establish so it’s easy to find the right person. This is particularly important when setting up collaborative projects.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make changes after your initial transformation is complete. A connected workplace is a living thing and you may need to evolve what you are doing if it is no longer efficient or your business has changed in how it operates.
The connected office can bring real benefits to your business. Every business has different needs but the principles remain. Talk to us to see how you can make those connections.