I'm the founder of FutureWork IQ where I spend my time assisting businesses to design digital workplaces or “offices in the cloud.” These environments enable companies to allow flexible and remote working for their teams. I also teach the digital literacy, fluency, communication and collaboration skills needed to work in these modern technology-rich workplaces.

Recently while meeting with a potential client they informed us that their motivation for wanting to develop a digital workplace was because the top talent they were wanting to attract to the company was asking if they could fulfill their function as a digital employee, being able to work from anywhere.

StaffMasters made this observation related to a recent survey on what employees want:

“Responses from a survey of 2,600 employees of all age brackets showed people are looking for increased flexibility.
Flexible work options make workers more loyal. This could mean working remotely, telecommuting at least part of the time or having an alternative work schedule. 97% of survey respondents said a job with flexibility would positively impact their quality of life. 87% said a flex schedule would lower their stress levels, and more than 75% said they believed it would make them healthier.

Collaboration means a lot to today’s employees. In another research study, more than half of global respondents indicated they were more productive when working from home. Nearly half said they experienced less stress working from home than they did at the office. Being globally connected via social networks, intranets and similar technology led them to feel part of a larger work family – and ultimately, resulted in enhanced performance and job satisfaction.”
This is the modern digitally enabled world we live in. Technology has unchained employees from their desks, and a revolution has started. As David Puglia points out in his recent piece entitled Lure Top Talent with Workplace Flexibility “Today’s top talent won’t invest their time or careers in organizations that aren’t forward-looking. An outdated digital workplace tends to be symptomatic of bigger organizational issues.”

My friend John Sanei points out in one of his presentations that we are going to look back at how we currently work (work-day commutes and being office bound) and ask “what were we thinking?” He used this image to illustrate his point:

Free range humans

A digital workplace means it’s not necessary to have to travel into an office to get work done. It’s not necessary to have in person meetings. It’s not even necessary to be located in the same city or country as where the business has its offices! The era of the digital employee is truly here and it requires that companies relook at how they work and from where. In the past thinking “I will go and live at the ocean once I am retired” is outdated. Many, many people are, right now, moving to the country or to the ocean and still productively working for their companies as digital employees.

There is often a concern about whether employees that have this flexibility remain engaged. Here is an interesting observation from research Gallup conducted on the engagement levels of remote workers:

“[The research] seems to indicate that remote workers may feel more connected to their companies, despite the physical distance between themselves and their workplace and colleagues. This intrinsic sense of connection to their companies may help explain why these employees have slightly higher engagement and work more hours, even without the direct supervision and positive social interactions inherent in a more traditional workplace setting.” (Source here)

The message is clear. If you want the best people working for you, you need to get flexible and a well designed digital workplace will enable that flexibility.