• Photo of Cara Van Ryn
    Cara Van Ryn

Digital collaboration tools became critical for work during the pandemic, so talking about the concept of the digital workplace has become more relevant than ever. Chris Tubb of the Digital Workplace Group defines the digital workplace as “the collection of all of the digital tools provided by an organization to allow its employees to do their jobs.” By this definition, every organization has a digital workplace, but not every organization has a successful digital workplace.

In a successful digital workplace, staff store files and information according to organization-wide guidelines, and they use consistent digital communication channels to collaborate with colleagues. Staff are also aware of all the productivity tools available to them and have the training to complete a defined set of basic digital workplace competencies.

However, even though most organizations have a set of digital tools, they still don’t have a well-functioning digital workplace. A couple of years ago, we wrote a piece about how to get a handle on your digital workplace to give organizations an idea of how they can improve. In that article, we explained that the challenge to having an effective digital workplace is less about getting the digital collaboration tools up and running and more about using those tools effectively.

While that piece presents a framework for designing an effective digital workplace, we wanted to offer additional guidance about common pitfalls we think you and your organization should avoid to get your organization closer to having an ideal digital workplace.


To start, don’t get into reworking your digital workplace without first examining why you have a digital workplace in the first place. Consider what problems you’re trying to solve and what your business objectives are. For example, your organization may want to improve staff collaboration or internal communication. Defining your objectives will help you figure out what exactly your organization needs in its digital workplace, so you can create an effective strategy and pick out the best tools for your staff.

Next, don’t rely on your IT department alone. While your IT staff should bring their technical knowledge to the table, you also need to draw on expertise and experience outside of IT to create a successful digital workplace. Your non-technical staff may have more insight into how everyone will adapt to the new technology environment, so you can better prepare for the transition by soliciting their feedback.

By engaging other units like Human Resources and Operations, you’ll also have advocates outside of IT who can facilitate the transition by setting up training and working with other staff to communicate about how to best use new systems.


Once you have a plan for your new digital workplace, make sure you avoid relying on word of mouth to spread your standards and policies. Many organizations rely on unspoken norms with respect to how they use digital workplace tools, which makes it difficult for new staff and even current staff to remember and follow the guidelines, so it’s important to create a written reference document for your staff.

Think about what a new staff member would need to know and keep your write-up simple and brief. Staff will find it harder to read a long missive, or they may not read it at all. Focus on documenting standard operating procedures, appropriate channels and tools for all staff communications, and other important processes you want to standardize as part of your digital workplace initiative.

While it’s crucial that you train your staff to navigate your digital workplace, make sure you don’t try to train everyone in every feature. For one, it’s simply impractical to do so, and it’ll overwhelm your staff. Instead, focus on getting everyone up to speed on the features and functionality they need to understand to complete their work. Let your staff learn more about the bonus features of your digital workplace systems as they work on their own and consider having in-house staff experts host sessions to teach other staff their advanced tips and tricks.

Finally, once you’ve settled into your improved digital workplace, don’t assume that your staff are following the guidelines. Make sure that you continue to adapt your implementation to address adoption challenges. Sometimes staff may choose to use old or redundant systems even after you’ve switched over, so it’s important that you keep an eye out for this tendency. If any staff members do return to old systems, it may be because they need more training on the new systems, or the new systems may not meet their needs. Whatever the issue is, make sure you work with your staff to address their concerns so that you don’t lose the progress you’ve made.

As with any governance initiative, adoption is an ongoing process that will require reinforcement and continuing attention. It is critical that you and your staff commit to your new policies to enjoy the benefits of an organized digital workplace.


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