An effective online environment can improve productivity at work. Find out what makes a great digital workplace and how to design yours.
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Meet Kelly, an office manager who works for an ecommerce startup based in Baltimore. She’s in charge of opening the new Portland office in collaboration with Pedro, who handles city permits and renting office space. Both of them are drowning in weekly calls, email threads, and digging through Slack messages to find key information. And Kelly still has to visit Portland every few weeks as some things just need to be done in person.
That’s when Pedro suggests building a digital workplace instead. This is a mix of tools that let people connect and get more done together—even when they’re apart.
Going digital doesn’t mean automating everything and putting people second; it’s about simplifying work interactions for better teamwork, no matter where in the world people are. If Kelly can get the same things done without leaving Baltimore, she and Pedro can progress faster—and the company can save a lot of money.
This post covers what a digital workplace is and how to build one that fits your team’s needs. You’ll also learn which tools can best help you improve online collaboration for your teams.
Build the digital workplace your team needs
Bring all your projects and people together in Switchboard’s persistent rooms so you can always find each other and communicate in context.
What is a digital workplace?
A digital workplace is made up of different digital technology tools that allow teams to communicate and work with others online—and achieve the same results as they would in person.
Digital workplaces aren’t just for hybrid or remote work: Fully in-person offices also need a tech stack to store information and connect with others in different branches.
What makes a great digital workplace?
A company’s digital workplace typically includes an ecosystem of tools that serve different purposes. Different departments will need different tools, but there will be some that are common to all. And, to avoid siloed working and information, it’s essential for all those tools to integrate with each other.
A great digital workspace should check each of the following boxes:
You can be sitting two desks apart or 1,000 miles away from a colleague and still benefit from communication tools.
Kelly works on the same floor as Rafa, the Head of Finance. Rafa is always in meetings, so it’s hard for Kelly to drop by and ask him a quick question in person. So she records a quick video on Loom with her questions and Rafa can answer as soon as he has time between meetings.
You don’t always need to sit in a meeting to collaborate with your team; cooperative work can happen synchronously or asynchronously. This means that your digital workplace needs tools that simplify and empower teamwork.
An example of these tools includes a unified digital workspace like Switchboard. It lets you bring all your favorite tools into persistent rooms that make everything multiplayer—so you can all work together without switching tabs or watching someone share their screen.
Pro tip: Switchboard persistent rooms are dedicated shared online workspaces for meetings or project work. Anything team members add to the Switchboard canvas stays in the room, so you can pick up where you left off.
Task and project management
Task and project management apps let you organize pending work and assign responsibilities, allowing teams to plan and review work either in person or online.
It’s crucial to have one of these tools in your digital workplace for allocating work and managing expectations. For example, Kelly could assign a task to Rafa to watch her Loom and get back with an answer by the end of the day.
As part of your digital workplace strategy, the tools in your stack need to be scalable and support your growth. The goal is that these tools support your operations as you grow in size and complexity. This means it’s important to look for tools that let you add as many users as you need at an affordable price.
To ensure you’re building a diverse and inclusive workplace for all your employees, these tools need to meet accessibility guidelines and principles. Pick tools with a shallow learning curve to cater to all your employees, and so they meet the mark for the visual and hearing impaired.
Examples of digital workplace solutions
Based on those criteria, we’ve compiled examples of general and team-specific tech stacks. If you’re looking for guidance on what to include in your digital workplace, here are a few examples.
Whole company tech stack
Companies need tools that make communication and teamwork smooth and efficient for everyone. To embrace digital transformation and improve your company’s tooling, here are a few different platforms you could include.
Online workspaces help increase productivity and speed up decision-making. For example, Kelly now uses one to meet and review office permits side-by-side with Pedro without sharing screens or sitting next to each other.
Examples of a digital workspace:
- Switchboard. This collaborative digital workspace allows you to organize all the browser-based apps and tools a team uses into persistent meeting and project rooms, so you can all work on them together. It makes virtual meetings and project sessions more engaging with its voting app, sticky notes, virtual whiteboards, and icebreakers question prompts. Because Switchboard rooms are persistent, they also support async work so you can always make progress even if you couldn’t attend the meeting.
- Google Workspace. This platform contains different tools for digital teamwork including emails, meetings, instant messaging, and file sharing.
Project or workflow management tool
Manage projects and assign responsibilities with a task management app. These tools give everyone visibility into planned and completed work without having to meet. For instance, Kelly can create a project timeline on ClickUp, assign tasks to Pedro, and set priorities async.
Examples of project workflow management tools:
- Asana. This is a work management tool where people can create project timelines, templates, to-do lists, and topic-based portfolios.
- ClickUp. This specialized project management tool is great for work planning and creating and storing documents.
Pro tip: Use a project collaboration tool like Switchboard with task management tools like Asana or ClickUp for side-by-side work even when you can’t get together. This makes for more connected teams by enabling the kind of spontaneous interactions you get in person.
With internal communication apps, you can chat, call, or email others, regardless of their physical workplace—and get answers faster. This also helps avoid taking conversations to personal channels WhatsApp or Signal, which could blur the boundaries between their work and personal life. Pick a company-wide tool that lets people communicate with anyone quickly.
Let’s say Kelly is struggling to make a decision regarding the Portland office. Someone suggests she messages Luigi, her peer from NY who opened the Miami office last year. She needs to make a decision fast and can’t wait for him to answer an email, so she introduces herself through Slack, they huddle, brainstorm solutions, and she makes a decision.
Examples of communication tools:
- Slack. Chat, meet, or call anyone in the same workspace and organize conversation by topic channels.
- MS Teams. Chat, meet, or give presentations to anyone working at your company using this Microsoft tool.
Companies need an internal repository to search for publicly shared information, policies, and processes. You can also use the intranet to request time off, bonuses, or allowances depending on the company. For example, if Pedro needs to find, bid, and hire a new vendor, he can go to the intranet and search for the standard operating procedure (SOP) on how to do it.
Examples of Intranet providers:
- BambooHR. Host and manage employee data, create team directories, implement a time-off request process, and administer benefits.
- Happeo. Centralize company information and make it accessible to everyone on the same Google Workspace.
Product development tech stack
Developers will use company-wide solutions but might also benefit from using team-specific business applications to automate parts of their work. These can make them more responsive to changes and write better code. These tools are necessary for in-person dynamics and in a hybrid or remote workplace.
Developers can also benefit from project management software that was built specifically for programmers. This is because these tools often integrate with other solutions like bug tracking or version control systems.
Examples of project management tools for programmers:
- Jira. Developers use this to plan work in sprints, track bugs, and follow up on tickets.
- Trello. While Trello can be used by non-engineers too, it’s essentially an online Kanban board. You can use it to track tickets and manage workload by having clear visibility of the backlog.
If there’s code, there can potentially be bugs. Sometimes these appear after the software starts processing more data or after editing the source code. It’s impossible to prevent them from appearing but it’s possible to track and fix them quickly.
Examples of bug tracking systems:
- Bugzilla. Web-based tool for tracking bugs and testing edits owned by Mozilla.
- YouTrack. Cloud-based bug-tracking tool with issue-monitoring and project management capabilities.
Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD)
For development teams to ship fast and ensure high-quality code, they need an automated CI/CD builder. These systems integrate new lines into the codebase and push it to production without bugs.
Examples of CI/CD tools:
- Jenkins. An out-of-the-box solution for building, testing, and integrating Java-based code.
- CircleCI. Build and test automated pipelines to integrate and deliver code without human intervention.
After the product is live and taken to market, product teams need to analyze its performance. To do so, they need tools that can integrate with the product and track user behavior.
Examples of product analytics:
- Hotjar. Get access to your digital product user behavior metrics including heatmaps, session recordings, and survey answers.
- Mixpanel. Gauge user insights from ideas to published products and use the data to make product decisions.
Pro tip: Open browser-based apps in Switchboard to manage work, review pending tickets, get alerts about bugs, design new features, and analyze product behavior together. You can also host daily standup calls and have a quick overview of your product’s status in one place.
Customer support tech stack
Service teams need cloud-based software to track feedback and customer support tickets. Having all customer data stored in one central location lets them delegate tickets to other departments or share feedback with the product team—and offer a better customer experience.
Help Desk software
Help desk software centralizes all messages coming from different portals in one place. This makes it easier for the support team to keep track and answer them in a timely manner without switching between tabs.
For example, customer 1 might submit feedback via Facebook; customer 2 through your website’s chatbot. Help desk software allows you to review those messages and create tickets from a centralized app.
Examples of help desk software:
- Zendesk. Connect with your customers and answer their queries via text, phone calls, emails, social media, or chatbots.
- Freshdesk. Solve customer problems and manage tickets from a centralized app.
Live chat software
This software adds chat capabilities to your website or product, so your customers can reach out and get immediate help from bots or customer service agents.
Examples of live chat software:
- Intercom. Use this software to add AI-powered chatbots to your product.
- LiveChat. Chat in real time with your customers or build chatbots and track answers in the help desk.
Feedback management tools
Every time your customers has feedback about your product, it’s an opportunity to optimize their experience. You need to have a process for storing all those comments and turning them into improvements. Feedback management tools allow you to collect and analyze customer comments easily.
Examples of feedback management software:
- UserVoice. Collect product feedback and review user data on one screen.
- SurveyMonkey. Create and share feedback surveys with your customers after every interaction with the support team and analyze the answers.
Other examples of departmental tech stacks
Every department needs unique tools to perform better and come to solutions faster. These tools make teamwork more efficient despite individual work locations. Here are a few more examples of function-based digital workplaces:
Marketing and sales
Marketers and sales managers need access to multiple tools to review customer data, manage leads, and move them down the funnel. Examples include:
- Marketing automation software like Marketo or Campaign Monitor
- Content management systems such as Webflow, HubSpot, or WordPress
- Customer relationship management (CRM) like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Zoho CRM
- SEO tools such as Semrush, Moz, or Google Analytics
- Lead generation tools including Leadfeeder or ZoomInfo
- Sales analytics software like InsightSquared or Gong.io
HR tech stack
Your human resources team needs tools to manage team performance, talent attraction metrics, payroll, and internal people processes. Examples of tools an HR team need include:
- Applicant tracking system (ATS) such as Greenhouse or Workday
- HR management system (HRMS) like BambooHR, Leapsome, or Namely
- Payroll management tools including ADP, Gusto, or SAP
- Learning management system (LMS) such as Cornerstone OnDemand or Moodle
How to design an effective digital workplace for your company
The main benefits of a digital workspace are that it helps eliminate silos and brings people together. With digital tools, your team can access information and collaborate even more efficiently.
But your digital workplace needs to help you move toward your company goals, so look at your internal business processes and ask your team how you could automate manual work. Here’s how to design a digital workplace that makes your people happier and more productive:
- Evaluate your team’s needs. Ask what’s causing your team to waste time, or where they think a tool might simplify the work. Find out what’s truly important for your team instead of guessing. For example, you might think having the most powerful video conferencing tool will change the way your team collaborates but, in reality, all they want is to increase async work and reduce meeting time.
- Ask the right questions of providers. With a clear intention in mind, you can go to demo calls with a list of questions and features you’re looking for. Make sure to ask providers how they’ll support you during onboarding and beyond.
- Think about integrations. It’s critical that your tools connect to each other. It makes no sense to use platforms to improve efficiency if you then spend time copy-pasting or sending information from one tool to another. If you’re using Switchboard, you can open any browser-based tool in its persistent project rooms without needing to build API connections, download anything, or delegate desktop control.
- Get buy-in and alignment from stakeholders. Meet with stakeholders, explain why you need to build a digital workplace, and share data from previous demos. Build a case and get budget approval on your most needed tools.
- Choose your tools. Make a list of all the tools you need and try them out. Most software as a service (SaaS) products come with a free trial, so get your team to try them out and vote. Get the tools with the highest scores and shorter adoption times.
- Train and onboard your people. Partner up with each provider to train your team on new technologies. Make sure to get tools with a shallow learning curve so you can realize the value of these platforms faster.
- Get feedback and iterate. There are new apps hitting the market every day, so be open to the possibility of changing platforms if you find a better option. This doesn’t mean you should be frequently changing your tech stack, but do ensure you’re embracing feedback from employees and staying up to date.
Digital workplace: Empower your teams to get more done
Office manager Kelly could work from home and wouldn’t need to travel to Portland every other week if she had a set of tools that allowed her to work side-by-side with her teammates. This would save her company thousands of dollars on flights—without impacting productivity.
It’s all possible with a digital workplace.
Digital workplaces let you choose different software to improve teamwork, employee engagement, and productivity for hybrid, remote, or in person teams. Your tech stack should support communication, collaboration, project management, and growth. It should also be accessible for everyone despite their level of technical skill or abilities.
To build the right digital tech stack for your company, ask your employees about their needs, source and test providers, get stakeholder buy-in, and teach your people how to use the tools.
Examples of digital workplaces include company-wide instant messaging apps like Slack, project management tools like Asana, intranet systems like Happeo, and digital workspaces like Switchboard.
Switchboard lets you enjoy more spontaneous interactions as it lets you share and work on browser-based apps, documents, and files without sharing screens. Its persistent rooms save your work, so you can access all project information from one central location and get more done together or apart.
Build the digital workplace your team needs.
Bring all your projects and people together in Switchboard’s persistent rooms so you can always find each other and communicate in context.
Frequently asked questions about digital workplaces
What are the benefits of a digital workplace?
The benefits of a digital workplace include:
- Enables more flexible work so you don’t need to all be in the same place
- Improves team productivity by having everything accessible on the cloud
- Potential to boost customer satisfaction as teams can review and act upon customer feedback faster
- Better communication and less siloed work and information