Employees who work in digital workplaces are not only more productive but also more motivated, have higher job satisfaction, and report an overall better sense of well-being, according to a new global study.

The study from Aruba, The Right Technologies Unlock the Potential of the Digital Workplace, reveals both the business and human benefits of more digitally-driven workplaces, and how companies that are less technologically advanced are at risk of falling behind the competition and not attracting top talent. It also notes that companies must be vigilant as more digital-savvy employees are taking greater risks with data and information security.

Key themes and findings

The study of 7,000 employees across 15 countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), revealed a clear chasm in employee performance and sentiment between more advanced digital workplaces and those that employ digital technology to a lesser degree. A number of key themes emerged:

Beyond productivity, digital tools unlock human benefits: ‘Digital Revolutionaries’ – employees identified as those who work in fully-enabled digital workplaces where new workplace technologies are in widespread use – were 51 percent more likely to have strong job satisfaction, and 43 percent more likely to be positive about their work-life balance than ‘Digital Laggards’ – those who have less access to workplace technology. The Revolutionary employees were also 60 percent more likely to say they are motivated at work, and 91 percent more likely to praise their company’s vision.

Digital working also supports professional development: 65 percent of Revolutionaries reported they had seen professional development and growth through the use of digital technology, compared to just 31 percent of Laggards. With a digital workplace, 72 percent of Revolutionaries reported a higher ability to adopt new work skills as compared to 58 percent of Laggards.

Productivity gains from digital technology quantified: 73 percent of Digital Revolutionaries reported a positive impact to their productivity and 70 percent cited improved collaboration thanks to digital technologies, vs. 55 percent of laggards.

Continued advancements in digital technology and automation pave the way for better workplace experiences: while automation can be perceived as a threat to job security, our research found that there was widespread enthusiasm for it. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they would welcome a fully automated workplace in the future, allowing organisations to build smarter, more effective working environments.

Emerging risks

The study also found that employees are enthusiastic about new technology and have a desire for their employers to provide more. Almost all respondents (93 percent) thought their workplace would be improved through greater use of technology, while 64 percent said their company will fall behind the competition if new technology isn’t implemented. The same portion (64 percent) believe the traditional office will become obsolete due to advances in technology.

Globally, 69 percent of respondents said their companies have invested in digital workplace tools in the past year, and interest is growing in a new generation of technologies including smart building tools that automate temperature controls and lighting (24 percent), voice-activated and wireless AV technology (23 percent), and custom corporate mobile apps (23 percent).
Most respondents thought digital technology would result in a more efficient (56 percent), more collaborative (52 percent), and more appealing (47 percent) work environment. While the benefits of digital workplaces are wide-ranging, the study also revealed that cybersecurity is a challenge for employers.

Although employees reported higher levels of cybersecurity awareness (52 percent think about security often or daily), they also admitted to taking more risks with company data and devices, with 70 percent admitting to risky behaviours such as sharing passwords and devices. A quarter of employees have connected to potentially unsafe open wifi in the past twelve months, 20 percent said they use the same password across multiple applications and accounts, and 17 percent admitted to writing down passwords in order to remember them.

Gamal Emara, Country Manager, UAE at Aruba, said:

“Our research shows that digital workplace trends in UAE are in line with global trends. Organizations in the country and the larger Middle East region need to understand that more digitally-driven workplaces not only foster productivity, but employee wellbeing, motivation and job satisfaction. The organizations that capitalize on implementing a digitally-enabled workplace will gain a competitive edge, by helping employees finish tasks quicker as well as making the process more collaborative and enjoyable.

Simultaneously, companies need to be aware of the growing information security threats that are now a routine problem for increasingly connected organisations. Our findings suggest that the problem is as much about human failures as it is digital workplace design.”

The road forward

These findings indicate that companies must adapt to leverage the benefits of new digital workplace technology while simultaneously minimising security risks. Aruba recommends that organizations take the following actions:

Adopt a digital workplace strategy: IT departments need to work with business managers, end-users, and other stakeholders to define a roadmap for their digital workplace evolution. This includes moving beyond established technologies to deploying new tools such as smart sensors and customised mobile apps that will create increasingly personalized workplace experiences.

Build collaborative digital workspaces: Companies need to think about how the digital workplace extends beyond their head office to support remote workers, partners, and customers. IT leaders need to plan for, and invest in, a working environment without borders.

Incorporate security from the ground up: Companies must architect the digital workplace with security as an integral part of the design, taking into account the role of human error as well as bad actors. To achieve optimum security that can adapt to change and unknowns, IT must look to emerging technologies in networking, cloud computing, AI and machine-learning.

“The consumerisation of the workplace is a very real movement. Employees are consumers and we bring consumer expectations with us to work,” said Janice Le, Chief Marketer for Aruba.

“The workplace is getting smarter and therefore, employees are working smarter.”

A new paradigm has started to emerge where smart building technologies are intersecting with the digital workplace to form the Smart Digital Workplace. This is where human-centered design meets IoT and building automation. The Smart Digital Workplace can enable personalised experiences such as connected furniture and smart lighting that adapts to the user.

Buildings can go greener by dynamically optimizing energy utilization based on employee patterns. These new use cases not only foster employee productivity but also improve efficiency while putting people at the center.

Le concluded:

“This global study indicates that choice, personalization, ease and automation are improving the top line and the bottom line for organizations who are defining the future of work. Our own place of work is a living lab for the Smart Digital Workplace and we are seeing results such as faster hiring and higher offer acceptances. The benefits are tangible and go beyond productivity.”