The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic edged most organizations and firms in the world to shift their workspace to the virtual sphere. Though the scale of this shift has been dramatic, five million workers in the United States were already working remotely back in 2018. It indicates that the pandemic only accelerated a process already in action — the steady acceptance of digital-first work.

Digital-first work

The digital-first work model proposes that personnel does their work remotely and digitally; this aligns with the ‘Mobile First, Cloud First’ work philosophy that Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, put forward back in 2014. He accurately predicted that “pretty much everything we do is going to be digitized.” In terms of technology, there has been exponential growth since that landmark address by Nadella, and today a digital workspace is a reality in almost every business context and scenario.

We must recognize the relevance of digital-first work beyond a surrogate strategy to cope with the pandemic. Before the pandemic, Drift, a conversational marketing and sales company, had an in-office work model and shifted to digital-first work. The company soon recognized the immense benefits of this work model upon such a transition.

Dena Upton, Chief People Officer at Drift, told Formstack, “We’ve gone through a one-way door, and it’s hard to go back. So I think successful organizations are going to have to embrace the migration.”

The digital-first work model lets companies reduce a significant part of their operational costs. It has also been shown to reduce employee turnover rates across different sectors. Furthermore, it allows companies to look beyond their geographical vicinity for potential assets as physical proximity is no longer an issue to consider when an organization is closely connected virtually. Forbes reports that productivity was boosted contrary to the initial skepticism that the market first welcomed the digital-first work model. There was also an increase in workplace satisfaction among employees who can enjoy greater flexibility and independence. Personnel no longer have to deal with the rigid structure of an in-office environment or intrusions and interference from management. This setup has also allowed professionals to gain better work-life balance, and many other such positive lifestyle changes have enhanced their performance. Digital-first work, therefore, seems to cultivate a committed, contented and resolute workforce for the company, which is a prerequisite for any firm’s success.

digital work culture

An organization that has adopted digital-first work is better connected and coordinated than a traditional establishment. They utilize the best that the available technological resources have to offer. It establishes a fast and reliable line of communication across different branches of the organization. Such work can quickly relay crucial information about operations, deadlines, targets, and goals through the chain of command. Resulting in faster and more efficient decision-making, the company can stay on top of developments, achieve its targets with ease, avoid disruptions and delays, and resolve problems successfully. The digital-first work model naturally leads to better workforce management.

Further, operations are more systematic with meticulous record keeping. The digital footprints of the employees and other types of metadata can provide the management with crucial insight into the organization’s inner workings. It equips managers and Human Resource personnel to allocate resources and to consign tasks more effectively. It allows them to assess the organization’s capabilities, set realistic objectives, and lay down the best strategies to achieve them.

Companies must recognize the vast possibilities of the digital-first work model. When used in conjunction, Videoconferencing applications, collaboration hubs, and other tools can establish a productive digital-first work environment. Marc Vontobel, founder and Chief Technology Officer of Starmind, urged companies and organizations in Forbes to embrace technology and digitization to the fullest extent possible. According to Vontobel, digital-first work allows establishments to integrate the latest tech such as automation and Artificial Intelligence into their operations to supplement the company’s human resources. This will enable establishments to access the untapped reserves of potential that are already in their hands and unleashes unprecedented productivity levels.

Joe Lennon, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of personnel communication software application, Workvivo, said, “At this point, I think everyone knows that digital needs to be at the heart of every company’s strategy when it comes to communication and employee engagement.”

It is undeniable that there has been a paradigmatic shift transforming the way we work and conduct business. A mindset shift among organizations is necessary today. The onus is on the establishments to cultivate a digital-first work culture.

Personnel needs training, education, and experience-based learning to be part of the digital revolution. Reskilling and relearning by employees is the precondition to the transition to digital-first work. A digitally acclimatized workforce can explore and implement technology and resources and produce creative and innovative solutions and alternatives.

Digital-first work model

It would be regressive to resist the change when the world is moving towards digital-first work. Throughout history, businesses with foresight have leaped the future that has gained them an edge over their competitors and reaped the benefits. To ensure their survival and relevance in today’s cutthroat business environment, establishments must transition to digital-first work.

The CEO of Capacity, an Artificial Intelligence-powered support automation platform, David Karandish, said, “The traditional workplace is dead. It’s wrong to assume business will be done in person in the same location anymore.” He hints that the digital-first work model will soon become the norm in every aspect, and other models will soon be obsolete.

Written by Bidisha Boral for The Growup Group

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