We all work somewhere, and for those in remote teams that “somewhere” is a digital workplace. The filing cabinets and watercoolers of physical office spaces have been replaced by digital equivalents like workplace collaboration tools and team chat apps. While these tools are often essential to running a remote team, they’re not always used effectively to create a thriving place to work.
In this guide, we’ll share:
- What a digital workplace is
- What the benefits of a successfully run online work environment are
- How to run virtual spaces for your employees
Most importantly, how does all of this connect to the future of work? Learn how to set up your team with the tools they need to work effectively together, no matter where in the world they are.
What is a digital workplace?
A digital workplace refers to the tools, apps, and platforms that your team members use to connect, engage, and work with each other. Much like a physical office space, your digital ecosystem is made up of different elements — like places to talk and get to know each other, store and search through files, get the work done, and share news and updates.
Digital workspaces typically feature:
- 📱 Communication and instant messaging apps
- 👍 Employee engagement apps
- 💡 Collaboration tools
- 🏆 Employee reward and recognition apps
- 📷 Virtual meeting and video conferencing software
- 🧰 Project management tools
- 👋 Internal social media tools
- 🗄️ Document and file archives
- 📁Content and knowledge management systems
- 🌐 Intranets and internal websites
- 💻 All-in-one digital workplace platforms
Your digital workplace experience should feel streamlined and make working together feel effortless. It should be easy for your team members to find files, collaborate on projects, meet with each other, and find out the latest news.
What are the benefits of having a digital workplace?
With the way the world and business has changed, digital workplaces are quickly becoming the norm for many businesses. If you have remote teams, distributed teams, or a hybrid work model, your team members need to be able to connect with each other and complete tasks in an efficient way. A digital work environment is the perfect way to bring people together without a physical space.
Some of the major benefits of a successfully run digital workplace include:
- 📁 Easy access to information and knowledge
- 🗺️ Opportunities for flexible working and remote working
- 📈 Higher efficiency and productivity
- ✅ Chance to streamline business processes and workflows
- 💡 More ways to collaborate and discuss ideas
- 👀 Greater visibility over what other teams and individuals are working on
- 🤝 Opportunity to create a more interactive and rewarding onboarding experience
- ↗️ Easy to scale as your company or team grows
- 👋 Ability to attract and retain talented people wherever they are
- 🌊 Opportunity to offer perks and benefits that create a better work-life balance
- 🪑 Lower overheads compared to a physical office space
- 😊 Opportunity to fully customize the experience to match your company culture
Run successfully, a digital workplace can become a thriving home for your team members — a place where they feel comfortable, supported, and motivated to do their best work. If you get the employee experience right, it’ll turn into other benefits — like higher employee engagement, greater employee satisfaction, and better customer experiences.
How to run a successful digital workplace
Having a digital space where people can collaborate, work, and get to know each other is essential for remote or distributed teams. Knowing this and running one successfully are two different things. Here’s how to set up and maintain a thriving digital workplace.
1. Evaluate your current digital ecosystem
Unless you’re starting or joining a brand-new company, you’ll have some kind of digital workplace already — even if you don’t call it that. It’s time to evaluate what you have, study how it works, and identify areas you want to change or improve.
Look at the tools that make up your digital work environment. Think about not only the value you get from the tools or how they function, but also the user experience. Consider how your team members feel about the way you work now, and how you could change or improve that by adjusting your culture, working hours, flexibility, or communication channels. Your digital workplace should feel easy to use so people can work at their best.
2. Reflect on your company culture
Once you’ve evaluated your digital workplace, think about your team culture. Don’t skip this step, as it’ll help you identify what you need, how you like to work, and how you can align your culture not only with your processes and workflows, but also your approach to communication, engagement, and teamwork.
Consider what your company values are, and how your digital workplace can help you demonstrate them. Think about how you can highlight your company culture and create a better employee experience. Use tools that help boost company culture, like Polly. Our instant engagement app makes it easier to connect with your employees, give and receive feedback, onboard new team members, and engage your employees.
3. Figure out what your goals are
Before you can figure out how to run your digital workplace the right way, you first need to decide what your overall business goals are. Setting an intention here not only helps you make decisions and form a digital workplace strategy, but it also makes it easier to communicate the changes to your employees.
For some organizations, the goal might be to streamline workflows and increase productivity. Introducing automation and project management apps and working on your meeting culture would be a priority for these companies. For others, the focus might be on enhanced collaboration and idea sharing — where tools that enhance employee engagement (like Polly) are a great step forward, alongside plenty of opportunities to get together, brainstorm ideas, and build stronger team connections.
4. Choose the right digital workplace software
Just like an office would have a collection of furniture, materials, and machines — your digital workplace solution is likely made up of lots of different tools. Choosing the right tools, apps, and software for your digital workplace is key to everything running smoothly — so take your time to find the right mix for your company or team.
Decide what your goals are, then work out which categories of tools and apps you need and what features you’re looking for. Think about whether you need apps that integrate with each other — like how you can use Polly with Slack or Microsoft Teams. Prioritize accessibility and inclusivity wherever possible — like choosing digital tools that make remote meetings more inclusive. Compare your shortlisted apps, check out demos, and ask your employees for feedback.
5. Empower your team members with knowledge and training
With any digital transformation project, there’ll be new software to learn, new processes to adapt to, and a shift towards a different way of working. Give your employees the best chance of adapting and thriving by sharing the journey and offering training.
Take your team members along with you, and involve them in the process of shaping your digital culture. Create and run an internal communications plan about your new digital workplace. Invite and use their feedback to make things better. When you add new systems or initiatives, host webinars and training sessions to introduce how everything works. Offer self-service learning materials too, in a variety of formats so everyone can engage and learn in their best way.
6. Create opportunities for conversation and engagement
Changing the way you work and the systems you use introduces a new need for support and conversation. It’s also an opportunity to introduce apps that make day-to-day updates and engagement easier. Use this moment to redefine communication within your culture and find better ways to talk, collaborate, and solve problems.
Introduce a purposeful engagement app like Polly that can help you enhance communication and engagement with your remote employees. Run real-time or asynchronous pollys (a better version of polls) to connect with your team, play virtual team building games together, and use templates to make hosting meetings like all-hands meetings feel effortless — all from within your existing apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom.
7. Ask for feedback
The way you run your digital workplace should change over time to meet the needs of your team and the way you work best. Always deliver the best experience for your employees by asking for their feedback regularly and acting on it.
Run a monthly or quarterly engagement survey, and track changes in metrics over time to identify trends and opportunities. Use Polly’s Open Forum to collect anonymous feedback, run a suggestion box, or host a Q&A about your digital workplace. Take your approach to innovation even further by making feedback central to your culture — like the method of adopting a system of continuous feedback we talked about recently on a podcast.
Optimize your digital workplace for success
The right systems, apps, and processes can help set your remote or distributed teams up for success. Use this guide to help you identify your goals, shortlist the right software, and create a strategy to introduce or enhance your digital workplace.
As you consider which apps to introduce, consider bringing Polly on board as your engagement co-pilot. Our employee engagement, meeting management, feedback, and internal coaching features enhance the team chat apps you already use — so you can create a more engaging digital workplace without adding another platform to your tech stack.
Written by Nicola Scoon
Nicola Scoon is a freelance writer that's passionate about employee engagement and better workplace experiences. She draws on her experience in internal communications to help companies create content that empowers, encourages, and motivates people to create better experiences for all.