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Put people at the heart of the digital work environment

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Sam Marshall is an expert in digital work environments and spoke at the Congres Intranet 2014 in the Netherlands. During his speech, he reflected on the basis of the digital work environment. According to him, this is something people often overlook. Which factors are really important for having the best possible digital work environment?

Employee satisfaction is the key

Marshall, who works at ClearBox Consulting in the UK, thinks that we place too much importance on the technology of a digital work environment and forget that it’s ultimately people who have to use it. One of the biggest misconceptions associated with introducing a new work environment is that people will automatically adopt the tools - software, hardware and accessories - that are being offered to them. Marshall believes that we should not fail to underestimate the role of people when it comes to new technology and tools.

Marshall: “We’re pretty bad at predicting how technology will be used in practice."

Even when technology can make something possible doesn’t mean that people are going to make use of it. The first thing Marshall points out is that not everyone is an “early adopter". Most people don’t adopt a new technology until a lot of other people have adopted it. This is why more and more people will give up if several options are added when a digital work environment is introduced. They simply can’t cope with the new changes. This makes it important to devise a strategy aimed at getting the ones who give up a chance to adopt the changes somewhat later.

A vision is needed
According to Marshall, the only way to create an effective digital work environment is to have a certain vision. To develop this vision and then determine a strategy, you first have to have a picture of the organization’s current position. Only then can you start sketching what the digital work environment should look like. The strategy will then be based on three determining factors.

The organization’s strategy: market, organizational structure, employee involvement, office staff versus travelling personnel, innovation, the need to cut costs, and flexibility.
Employees: work-life balance, autonomy versus productivity, the availability of information and the resulting power relationships, bring your own devices (BYOD), computer accessories, and flexible work circumstances.
Technology: cloud, mobile, broadband, big data, social tools.

A change in one of the three determining factors will ultimately have an impact on the others. The relationships between these three factors should be continually reconsidered. A digital work environment will be successful only when effective use is made of all three factors.

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