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What Are Digital Workspaces?

What Are Digital Workspaces?

A short definition of a digital workspace

Something interesting is happening here; the workplace is evolving. An important fourth component – the digital workspace – helps heads of workplace extend office culture into their employee’s homes. And they quite like it. Unexpected. But what is a digital workspace?

The workplaces’ fourth leg

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, workplaces were supported by three key components: physical buildings, analogue tools such as chairs and desks, and digital tools notably Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Now, organisations wrestling with home and hybrid working operating models need to consider the emergence of a fourth component: the digital workspace.

Identifying the Workplaces’ new fourth component

Work places, spaces & tools

A workplace is usually thought of as ‘a building or room where people perform their jobs’1. Typically, a workplace contains spaces and tools:

  • A workspace is the configuration of an office area into its different circulation paths and zones to encourage ways of working and employee wellbeing.
  • Worktools can be defined as the tools used by employees that encourage greater efficiency, effectiveness and healthier ways of working.

Analogue & Digital

Conventionally, we’ve imagined these spaces and tools as physical/analogue components: buildings, lobbies, meeting rooms, and their associated furniture and fittings. But with the increasing use of digital technologies, our worktools have migrated to digital hardware and software allowing people to work from anywhere. Workspaces are set to follow course, migrating from analogue to digital and adding a fourth leg, the digital workspace, to our post-pandemic workplace.

The Virtual Office?

It is worth noting that some commentators also use the phrase ‘virtual office’:

  • Either, to refer to organisations providing remote office capabilities such as a registered office address or mail-forwarding and phone answering services.
  • Or, to refer to the places where people access their digital technology.

This second meaning is closely associated with the idea of digital workspaces although up until recently, ‘digital technology’ only referred to the digital worktools. However, as firms adopt digital workspaces it is reasonable to expect that this second ‘virtual office’ concept will evolve to cover both digital tools and digital spaces.

Mark T.

NOTES: 1 Cambridge Dictionary definition. Featured image by Joel Wyncott on Unsplash. Hat-tip to Martin van der Linden and his mental framework model outlined in this YouTube video.

Digital workspace revolution will not be televised

Digital workspace revolution will not be televised

Seriously

At this point, digital workspace technology is characterised as kinda neat, and a bit nerdy. After all, what sort of organisation would seriously consider 8-bit retro-gaming screens with dodgy-looking avatars as its workplace? At least that’s how the mainstream press appears to view the state of the art. 

Having spent several months with the team at Digital Conversation working with various platforms and through many office scenarios, I suggest that in fact we should treat this tech very seriously. Digital Spaces have the potential to revolutionise our workplaces, and organisations need to plan for them.

The revolution will not be televised

This revolution won’t happen overnight. We envisage three evolutionary phases, but these will ultimately add up to a transformation of the world of work:

Initially, organisations are adopting digital workspaces to augment their physical workplaces and to help overcome the challenges of home working. The workplace then becomes a collection of physical spaces, with increasing use of digital teamworking tools, plus digital spaces to complement and extend the role of those tools.

At a later point, as experience grows and more data emerges, organisations will embrace digital workspace tech to create a more purposeful workplace: one that is better than their current set of physical office spaces. In short, the actual model and concept of an optimally designed workplace will shift from physical to digital spaces.

Beyond this, we expect to see geographic boundaries lose some or all of their significance in organisational structures, ushering in the era of the Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO). This transition has the potential to alter the future of work radically, in the same way as blockchain-based cryptocurrencies aim to displace today’s financial systems.

Far fetched? I don’t think so, but as Gil Scott-Heron’s classic spoken-word testament outlined, we’re not going to find out by sitting on the sofa and watching.

Mark T.