The open secret about 'the digital workplace' (and what actually matters)

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The Ripple Team

on July 23 2020

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The open secret about 'the digital workplace' (and what actually matters)

Define ‘the digital workplace’. Don’t look it up! Did you say:

‘the concept that there is a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace, and that this needs to be planned and managed coherently because it is fundamental to people’s productivity, engagement and working health’?

Well done, you’re right! According to CMS Wire, that is. If you ask Deloitte, it’s actually:

‘All the technologies people use to get work done in today’s workplace – both the ones in operation and the ones yet to be implemented.’

And don’t get the Digital Workplace Group started. They have eight definitions. The open secret about ‘the digital workplace’? It means so many things at once that it’s almost meaningless.

The bad boss guide to burning out your digital workforce

What’s that buzzing sound?

Buzzwords are pervasive. According to TrustRadius, 94 percent of us either use or hear them on a regular basis. The experts at Psychology Today identify 75 such words that ‘drive them crazy’. If the psychologists can’t keep it together, what hope is there for the rest of us?

While ‘the digital workplace’ may not be quite as painful as something like ‘click-and-mortar’ (yes, that is real), it’s no less confusing. Take a look at Gartner’s Hype Cycle for the term, which identifies the trends that fall under the digital workplace moniker:

Gartner's 2018 Hype Cycle for 'The Digital Workplace'

It becomes obvious how vague and confusing the term is when you see just how much it encompasses. There’s not even a consensus definition among the experts mentioned above. Referring to your intranet or communication technology as ‘the digital workplace’ is like introducing your significant other or child as a ‘mammal’. Sure, they’re technically in that category, but why on earth did you just do that? By using the broader term, you’re sacrificing clear communication.

What actually matters?

Unless you’re in the very rare position of referring to all of these things at once - i.e. you’re asking the question ‘What is our digital workplace made up of?’, it’s not worth using the term. Bundling these massively diverse things into one is inefficient at best, and risks giving each individual element inadequate attention at worst. It introduces an unnecessary barrier that requires unnecessary clarification.

Using a buzzword in place of a concrete alternative makes it harder to focus your attention on what actually matters: efficient, flexible communication. If your instant messaging setup needs work, there’s no sense in muddying the waters by calling it anything other than ‘instant messaging’. Being specific will allow you to enact specific and effective change and improvement.

74 percent of employees feel that they miss out on company updates. 60 percent of businesses don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy. You don’t have a ‘digital workplace’ problem, you have an internal communication problem.

For the sake of the digital workplace, stop saying it

You wouldn’t talk about ‘improving the physical workplace’ – you’d talk about the changes that need to be made to your office layout, or whether Jeremy should be allowed to continue microwaving fish in a public setting. The way you talk about your technology should be no different.

The whole point of ‘the digital workplace’ is to facilitate clear communication and collaboration between employees. By eliminating the term from your vocabulary, you’ll be living up to its promise.

The bad boss guide to burning out your digital workforce