What exactly is a "new workspace" and how can I get one?

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What constitutes a “workspace”? There are many definitions, often depending on your actual job, but there is no real hard and fast rule.

So how do employers give their employees the right environment in which to work and be their most productive? The answer lies in giving employees more control over how they want to work.

The reshaping of the traditional workplace

Digital technology has caused most workplaces to change beyond recognition over the last decade. It is not so long ago that a typical office “workspace” was likely made up of a cubicle which was dominated by a big PC, monitor and deskphone. The computer was equipped with various software packages either on its own hard drive or on an enterprise server. So the workload and habits might have been digital, but the workspace was still physical.

If we consider the way that other “spaces” in our daily lives have transformed, the digital transformation shift becomes more starkly illustrated. The way we watch TV has changed beyond recognition, from watching TV live or recorded on video or DVD, to streaming millions of items of content from vast networks like Netflix. Similarly, the way we store digital data has changed from local hard drive to external hard drive to network-based storage to the cloud over time. As technologies have evolved, habits have changed.

Today, the ubiquity of mobile phones and devices, wireless networks and cloud computing has set employees free from their cubicles, and people increasingly work from their own home, from airports, customer premises or even shared workspaces or coffee shops. They use a range of devices made by various manufacturers to do so, all running on a variety of different operating systems.

Workers are using desktop PCs – and by extension desks – much less than they used to. According to Forrester, 43 percent of workers reported using their PC less often since they got their hands on a tablet.

Today’s workspace has evolved thanks to the advent of browser-based apps and cloud-based data sharing. All the elements of our workplace interaction, even the desktop itself, are now web- and cloud-based. So the “desktop” itself is no more. Fundamentally, what has changed most about the workplace is technology – and the things that have changed most about an individual’s workspace, are powered by digital.

Think digital, reap the benefits

The traditional work environment today is virtual. Workers want to work more flexibly and on their own terms, so IT needs to make it as simple as possible for them to engage anytime, anywhere and using any device. As with the personal end-user, who demands a great technology user experience, the employer must today seek to give workers the kind of experience they have in their daily and home lives.

IT departments need to focus on building digital workspaces that leverage mobile technologies and mobile work styles to deliver that flexibility. It is about a change in philosophy whereby companies trust employees to work effectively outside of traditional parameters: use digital to build a new business environment in which employees are more comfortable and you will create more productive, more content workers.

Research from Gallup has shown that worker engagement influences a range of performance indicators, from productivity to customer satisfaction, from profitability to absenteeism. At the same time, the research also revealed that only 30 percent of US employees “feel engaged at work.” So the same shift of mindset of what constitutes an individual’s “workspace”, by making it a place where the worker feels more engaged, could even have a knock-on effect on the organization’s overall performance and bottom line.

Digital is there to drive this change. In time, the new digital workspace will effectively become a hub that houses apps and data, generated from anywhere by any provider. It will contextualize data and work, helping streamline workflows and drive productivity. The concept of a “workspace” has now changed irrevocably and those companies that empower workers with a consistent, contextual, user-centric experience that embraces digital and all devices will be those that thrive.

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Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.