Expert insights

Are you ready for today’s digital workplace?

4 July 2017 by Sam Welch

Smarter working could boost productivity, increase collaboration and cut your travel costs, says Sam Welch.

Getting your business travel and accommodation spend professionally managed, making savings and achieving strong policy compliance are all great. But having achieved all that, can you sit back, put your feet up and breathe a sigh of relief? We don’t think so. However mature you think your travel programme is, in the new era of the digital workplace, this is no time to rest on your laurels.

As specialists in business travel and meetings services, we use our expertise to help procurement professionals deliver robust supplier programmes. That means driving industry-leading online adoption and compliance, as well as hugely successful and sustainable savings initiatives. But we can also help you prepare for what’s next – and that means having the right tools in place for the way we work today.

Working styles are changing

How and where we work as individuals is changing. Our recent Smarter Working infographic revealed why, when and how frequently employees are travelling for work, and the tools they are using on the move.

It underlined that our traditional working environments are being revolutionised by the new era of the digital workplace: a space in which we carry out our jobs where and when we need to, via a seamlessly connected network.

A digital workplace allows us to collaborate instantly and effortlessly. The result? Greater productivity and more innovative ways to do business.

The benefits of a digital workplace

Many forward-looking organisations already understand and enjoy the benefits of a well-managed digital workplace:

  • Costs are reduced: From hardware ownership and office space to a reduction in travel and a lower carbon footprint, greater use of a digital workplace can save serious money.
  • Productivity is improved: Instant messaging in a work environment transforms business interactions by boosting real-time troubleshooting and communication.
  • Engagement and collaboration is boosted: Dynamic messaging can also allow people to share inspirational ideas effortlessly and instantly.
  • Decision-making is faster: If information is easy to see and access, it allows for a quicker response from all involved.
  • The organisation is attractive as an employer: A flexible working culture with the right tools helps to attract and retain the right talent and give people back their much-needed work/life balance.

Why it’s getting easier to create a digital workplace

Achieving a truly digital workplace is a common aim for many organisations, whatever their size. Yet the reality of making it work in practice can be a challenge, especially when key business decisions are made in isolation. Early adopters of digital solutions were sometimes disappointed with the platforms available to them and their low level of uptake.

Capita IT Enterprise Services believes there are three critical factors that mean this will no longer be the case. Firstly, technology has matured significantly. Secondly, organisational culture is shifting to become more digital-friendly. And thirdly, employees are actively demanding better tools and tech solutions, many of which they are already used to using at home.

As a result, digital working is already proving hugely popular. In 2014, the UK already had four million people working from home – that’s 14% of the workforce. More recent research suggests this figure was edging closer to 25% last year. Interestingly, a third of business leaders surveyed at a global leadership summit expected more than 50% of their workforce to be working from home by 2020.

Eliminating 100 physical workplaces has been estimated to save businesses £1m a year (more in central London). Meanwhile the Boston Consulting Group believes that, on average, 60% of all corporate real estate sits unemployed at any one time. With these figures in mind, it’s hardly surprising that ways of working are changing at such a rapid rate.

How the digital workplace will affect business travel

But what’s the real impact of the digital era on business travel? Are employees travelling less, or more? Has travel spend been reduced? Are relationships with colleagues and customers improving? Do employees feel better for it, and are they more productive?

With collaborative working now recognised as a fundamental business discipline, virtual solutions will continue to be a game changer. It’s been noted that 56% of chief finance officers would invest in virtual collaboration (VC) solutions to reduce travel costs. What’s more, businesses that have successfully done so have seen a 30% reduction in travel costs.

So, when digital working is done correctly, it’s clearly a no-brainer. But, as first-time users often discover, collaborative working doesn’t just happen. Organisations need to have the right tools and the right behaviours in place. Revolutionising the way their business works means organisations also need to revolutionise the way they manage business travel.

The digital tools for business travel

Business travel providers cannot afford to ignore the digital workplace revolution. Deciding whether you need a managed programme or an unmanaged one, and having a traveller-focused policy, are small pieces of the bigger picture. The theory only works in practice if you have the right tool kits to make it happen.

Organisations need cohesive travel and meeting space booking tools that work seamlessly with the digital workplace, actively encourage the use of online solutions and virtual collaboration, and help the traveller and meeting arranger to travel smarter and more safely to essential face-to-face meetings.

Digital workplaces could boost productivity

The unit cost and total cost of a trip have long been a focus for procurement teams – and should remain key metrics for measuring travel – but what about the impact of business travel on productivity?

Recent data analytics from Capita Travel and Events’ data scientist team showed that having travellers stuck behind the wheel of a car travelling to and from meetings is, on average, losing 9.2 working days in productivity per employee, every year.

What’s more, the impact of high-frequency travel can result in a 27% increase in absenteeism. Constantly being on the road can damage the welfare of highly prized team members and further compound the significant, and often hidden, cost of travel on organisations and their workforces.

Combining data analytics with qualitative research to connect the dots between travel, meetings, expense, HR and employee data sources – as we are doing – will ensure your digital workforce and people strategies are cohesively knitted together with your travel technology.

And the benefits for our productivity could be immense. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK productivity is lagging 18 percentage points behind that of other members of the G7 (36 percentage points behind Germany, 31 behind France and 30 behind the US). So, to put it simply: if the UK workforce was achieving the same productivity levels as France and Germany, we could just work Monday to Thursday and maintain the same level of output, and take Friday off. Now, doesn’t that sound good for your work/life balance?

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit the details below, with an idea of the times that suit you for a call.