Digital workplace: five ways to take advantage from your virtual office
, Alexandre Caulier
The COVID-19 crisis has suddenly made teleworkers of many of us! Maybe you usually work in a building with hundreds of colleagues? Now your ‘workplace’ comprises hundreds of home offices. Instead of going into an office every day we are working from our beds, kitchen tables, garden sheds… we are working during nap times and between home-school sessions. Sure, it’s not ideal. But back up a minute and let’s look at this: A few decades ago lockdown would have meant shutting down! Isn’t the fact that so many of us can continue to do our jobs at all kind of incredible? Today, colleagues are using their laptops and smartphones to create the connections they need – and, you know what? It’s working!
Hang on – you mean a Virtual Workplace?
Businesses are running on a network of connected technologies culminating in one collaborative, knowledge-sharing online environment for employees: a digital workplace. Thanks to rapid digital developments and the rising trend of flexible work, many companies already have a digital infrastructure in place – now, they are using these platforms to support crisis communications and keep a centralised workspace alive.
Because of its potential to reduce carbon footprints, cut industry costs, and provide more inclusive employment, remote working has long been touted as a solution to a myriad of modern problems. As anyone used to working from home will tell you, the reality is fraught with communication difficulties, loneliness and time management nightmares, only mitigated by a number of communication and organisation strategies. Studies show that the majority of teleworkers cite digital communication tools as the key to success.
For those not used to working from home, it might not be easy to know where to start.
Here’s how Elium users are making it work:
No one would dispute that there is a big difference between listening to the radio and watching TV. We all know that not all communication is verbal. Face-to-face meetings are an essential part of many people’s jobs. Theoretically, information can be transferred by email, and conversations conducted by telephone, but it is important not to fall into the trap of simply ‘phoning in’ our work meetings.
Psychologically, just getting out of your pyjamas to prepare for a video call is important for getting in the right frame of mind! Our clients tell us that video tools are proving essential for carrying on planned meetings and keeping those all-important human connections alive!
For Elium customers using Microsoft Teams, their Team can be linked to their Elium space so that colleagues can keep abreast of all progress.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Not all communications are the same. The things you took for granted – a quick question for your boss, double-checking something with a co-worker – involves a conscious effort now. Writing an email is quite a palaver compared to a quick tap on the shoulder, so something immediate, less formal and targeted is needed to replace these interactions.
‘We use Slack,’ says Diane, a communication officer at Vivaqua, ‘we are used to talking a lot so this is an important way to get in touch quickly.’ Diane has a Slack group of four colleagues all working on the same plan. It means she can fire off a quick message and it is immediately contextualised under a heading and seen by her core group.
Without a daily commute, and with the various distractions we may find at home, it can be hard to shift from home-mode to work-mode. Weathered teleworkers often develop a morning routine. This can be as simple as a short walk, coffee on the balcony, or a workout – whatever it takes to get in the ‘zone’. It is also useful to set a time for checking emails and taking coffee breaks – otherwise, you may find yourself clicking on spam and standing by the fridge all day!
Some companies have an online check-in and check-out system. ‘It's kind of like saying, I get in my car to drive to and from the office,’ says Elium’s system administrator, Nicolas, ‘It's like the break that allows us to change our minds from “Working” to “Relaxing”.’ Make sure you are present in the digital workspace: if there is a check-in system, use it.
Get in touch with your team on a daily basis, and give your colleagues regular updates on where you are with your tasks.
Effective information management is key for business success. Over the past decade, technology in the workplace has rapidly evolved to develop ways to break down information silos and create a portal for all internal data and communication. With staff now scattered and restricted, businesses need a central place of knowledge, a system that allows them to organise, digitalise and centralise information resources as well as important intel.
While a platform like Elium may once have given a helpful boost to companies, it has suddenly become an essential touchstone for scattered staff – Elium has seen a 70% rise in usage per day! Vivaqua began using Elium last October.
When the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly escalated, the tool proved invaluable for keeping processes running. ‘We had a lot of urgent communications at the beginning of the lockdown, to put things in place for working from home …’ says Diane, ‘the tool was very, very useful at this time.’
Because Elium users already had all of their important links like teleworking procedures and useful apps digitally available, managers could give their staff access to all of the information they needed wherever they were.
Necessity is the mother of invention! Some of our customers are using digital tools in surprising ways. At DAS Belgium, staff are using an Elium space as a helpdesk. They created a ‘technical question’ template which can be shared in the space.
If a colleague has a technical issue at home, the IT team can help them to solve it using this space.
This isn’t what the template was designed for, but what works for them, works for us!