Discover what a unified digital workplace is, how it’s beneficial, and how to set one up that’ll enable your team to better collaborate and get work done.
Table of Contents
When you hear the word “workplace,” what do you think of? A traditional office space full of desks and meeting rooms, perhaps?
The clue is in the name, right? Workplace.
Things are changing, though. Many people “show up to work” these days by checking a messaging platform, logging into project management software, or navigating collaboration tools. Whether you work from home, head to an office every day, or do a bit of both, your workplace probably involves a lot more of this than it did even just a few years ago.
A unified digital workplace empowers people to get more done together—wherever they are and however they work. That’s why leaders need to understand how to put a unified digital workspace together that enables employees to work smarter, collaborate better, and get more done.
In this post, you’ll learn what a unified digital workplace is, its benefits, and how to implement one in your organization.
Get back more time for focus work.
Switchboard users spend less time lost in tabs and more time getting work done.
What is a unified digital workplace?
A unified digital workplace is an online work environment that brings together different tools, technologies, and applications. This lets team members communicate and get work done in real time or async.
Sometimes, a unified digital workplace can mean a central platform from which you can access all your apps, files, etc., and perform all the functions you need. Other times, a digital workplace is an online work environment that’s made up of a combination of various integrated tools like Slack, Gmail, and Asana.
Either way, the goal of a unified digital workplace is to allow people to easily access all the information, apps, and resources they need online.
Digital workplaces are different from digital workspaces. A digital workspace is a single platform that recreates an office environment online, like Switchboard. A digital workspace might be part of your broader digital workplace, but you’ll likely use it in combination with other tools to get all the functionalities you need.
How a unified digital workplace can benefit your team
Unified digital workplaces don’t just allow professionals to get through their tasks—they bring them together, help reduce team and information silos, and make work more enjoyable and intuitive for everyone. Let’s see how that looks on a day-to-day level:
- Less context-switching. Bouncing between different projects and digging for lost information are huge time wasters. In fact, doing so can cost employees up to 4 hours every day. An effective unified digital workplace can drastically reduce this time sink through integrated tools, so you can access information from multiple platforms in one place.
- Increased productivity and efficiency. A Harvard Business Review report found that 74% of respondents say communication tools and collaboration platforms make employees more efficient. In addition, the European Commission projected a productivity increase of up to 10% when it started implementing its own digital workplace strategy.
- Better communication. No company can be successful without good communication. Tellingly, Grammarly found that 93% of leaders agree that “communication is the backbone of business.” However, many professionals suffer from collaboration overload in the current world of work. A unified digital workspace means that colleagues are connected and able to work together while keeping disruptions and notifications from multiple apps to a minimum. Visibility into what everyone is working on also helps prevent overload from new tasks and requests when people are still deep in current ones.
- Lower operational costs. Investing in the right technology can make running a business more affordable. A report by The Hackett Group found that spending 3% more on tech so your team uses the right tools can save companies as much as 29% in overall costs.
- A reliable source of truth. Unified digital spaces give employees secure access to all the tools, up-to-date information, and resources they need to do their best work at any time.
- Fewer barriers to working together. Whether your business relies on remote work, hybrid work, or an in-office setup, team members need to be able to collaborate, which a unified digital workplace enables. It shouldn’t matter if they’re at different desks, in different buildings, or on different continents.
Pro tip: Virtual workspace software like Switchboard minimizes context-switching as you can save all your files, apps, and notes in persistent rooms rather than toggling between different tools. Real-time document collaboration and features like chat, video calls, and polls also make it easier to move forward while communicating in context. That means less time wasted and more time for focus work.
5 ways to implement a unified digital workplace
Setting up a unified digital workplace can be a big task, but these steps will lay the foundation for an intuitive, effective, and fulfilling online professional environment. Let’s explore them in more detail.
1. Focus on team members first
Poor adoption rates, general confusion, and low employee engagement are common barriers to successfully setting up a unified digital workplace. Basically, if people don’t understand how to use the tech stack to its fullest potential, you’ll disrupt the employee experience and won’t get the results you want.
To avoid this, when implementing or optimizing a digital workplace, investigate and consider your people’s needs before you decide what tools or technology you want to use.
David Smith, research analyst and strategist at Global Technology Industry Research, emphasizes: “You’ve got to focus on the experience of people, not just the tech itself. How does the tech enable people to get their jobs done? Does it enable seamless interactions, seamless communications?”
After you understand team members’ needs and identify the technology that’ll best enable them to get their work done, organize targeted training so everyone knows how to make the most of it. Don’t forget to share praise and integrate tech adoption into performance evaluations to further motivate them. For example, if a member of your operations team comes up with an Asana hack to automate reminders.
2. Research the tools
One of the hardest parts of building a unified digital workplace is choosing the right tools. To build a cohesive tech stack, your tools need to:
- Align with both employee and organizational needs, priorities, and preferences
- Suit your current company size, type, and budget but also be able to scale
- Have good reviews, a great user experience, and a reputation for being intuitive and user-friendly
- Be compatible with other apps you’re already using or planning to adopt
Here are the steps we’d recommend taking to effectively choose the best apps for your business to avoid the frustration and costs of having to switch further down the road:
- Get recommendations. Talk to peers in your industry and ask them which platforms they use to accomplish certain tasks. They’ll likely already have gone through some trial and error and be happy to share their favorite finds. If you don’t know anyone who has tried out a tool you’re interested in, search for reviews or videos where people talk about their direct experience with it.
- Use review sites. Platforms like G2 and Capterra can help you identify what software options are out there for your needs, budget, and company size.
- Sign up for free trials or demos. Get some first-hand experience by registering for trials and/or demos to get a feel for different platforms yourself.
- Talk to sales teams. Set up product demo calls and arrive ready with a list of questions and features you’re looking for. Make sure to ask the representative how they’ll support you during onboarding, adoption, and beyond.
3. Look into integrations
A unified digital workplace has to be just that—unified. That means choosing a range of tools, apps, and technologies that play well together.
Desk workers currently rely on as many as 2x more apps than they did in 2019, so we recommend being selective and trying to minimize the number of tools that make up your digital workplace. However, you’ll be right back to constantly switching between platforms if you don’t think about how different tech integrates early on in your research process.
When you’re deciding which tools will make up your unified digital workplace, be sure to check how many built-in integrations they have available. For example, Slack has a library of 2600 apps that it integrates with, as well as APIs so you can build custom apps. In addition, if you’re interested in two platforms that don’t have a formal integration, check out tools like Zapier that might be able to bridge the gap.
Noteworthy: With Switchboard as part of your unified digital workplace, integrations are less of a concern. Just add any browser-based apps with a simple copy-paste and get to work.
4. Get buy-in and alignment from leadership
It’s essential to get your company’s C-level executives on board when building a unified digital workplace. First, because they’re likely in charge of the business finances and will need to sign off on the budget for new tools and technology. Second, because company-wide adoption is key and leaders often set a powerful example. Digital transformation works best when everyone is on board and using your tech stack to its full potential.
Here are some steps to get leaders bought into your unified digital workplace vision from the get-go:
- Build a compelling case. Don’t just tell executives that you need to buy certain tools—show them why you need to invest in that specific technology and how doing so will result in tangible benefits for the organization. For example, ask one of your developers to demonstrate how Remotion enables them to collaborate on code more effectively.
- Create a detailed presentation. Turn the findings from your discussions, industry recommendations, market research, and first-hand tool testing into a presentation so you can share all the important details with leadership and formally ask for the budget you need.
- Integrate C-level feedback. In an ideal world, you’d make your presentation to the C-suite and they’d sign off on everything without any issues. But they may have different perspectives on what an ideal unified digital workplace for your company would look like and which collaboration strategies they’d like to prioritize. Be sure to take their feedback to heart, integrate it into your final plan, and communicate the why behind any changes to your initial proposal to the wider team.
5. Monitor and review your digital workplace over time
Remember, your work isn’t finished once you’ve decided on your digital workplace strategy and set it all up. Although you’ve done the initial heavy lifting, digital workplaces are as dynamic and changeable as the people who use them.
Be sure to take the following steps to ensure that your digital workplace serves team members and aligns with your business needs as time goes on:
- Monitor adoption. Once your team has been using the current version of your unified digital workplace for a couple of months, look into adoption rates. If a low percentage of employees regularly use one tool compared to the others, that may indicate a problem with training or buy-in. If so, some digital workplace management strategies will help you resolve issues.
- Do regular internal audits. Effective digital workplaces are like live organisms—they shift and change over time in response to company needs. Team members should always be asking, “Is there a better way to do this?” rather than relying on the same tools and technologies because you’ve always done it that way.
- Prompt team members for feedback. Use one-on-one check-ins and performance reviews to dig into your employees’ experiences with the digital workplace. Ask team members what’s impressed them or what pains they’ve run into. If you fear that people might not be comfortable speaking candidly, you can also send out regular anonymous surveys.
Unified digital workplaces: Empower your teams to get more done
Whether in-person, hybrid, or remote, workplaces look very different than they did even a few years ago. Carefully building and rolling out a unified digital workspace for your company is one of the best ways to set your team up for success. This is because they can get more done async or in real time, be more effective, and actually enjoy their work. Choosing and implementing the right technology also lets you build connections whether colleagues are separated by a hallway or an ocean.
If you’re looking to implement your own unified digital workspace, be sure to prioritize employee needs first. Then, carefully research tools, think about how they will integrate with each other, get leadership on board early on, and monitor and optimize your strategy over time.
Switchboard is an integral part of any unified digital workplace: It unites all your cross-functional teams–and the apps, documents, and files they need–in one central place. This means they can always find each other and get work done—or make progress async.
Get back more time for focus work.
Switchboard users spend less time lost in tabs and more time getting work done.
Frequently asked questions about unified digital workplaces
What is an example of a digital workplace?
An example of a digital workplace could be any organization that uses a combination of online tools to get work done. For instance, a software development company that uses Switchboard as its visual collaboration platform, Instagram and LinkedIn as its social media platforms, monday.com as its project management platform, and Slack and Outlook as its internal communication tools.
What is the difference between a digital workplace and a workspace?
The difference between a digital workplace and a digital workplace is simple. A digital workplace is an online professional environment that’s made up of a combination of different tools, like HubSpot, Asana, and Microsoft. A digital workspace is a single platform that brings together different functionality and recreates an office environment online. For example, Switchboard lets you open all the browser-based apps, documents, and files you need for easy collaboration.
What are some digital workplace trends for 2023?
Some of the top digital workplace trends in 2023 include:
- More automation
- Increased use of generative AI
- Rising demand for tech workers in all sectors
- A wider range of workflows and tools that avoid context-switching
- More asynchronous work
- Fewer but more meaningful meetings
- A greater leadership focus on people and their wellbeing
- Reassessment of traditional training methods