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Remote workersDWF has asked me to write a research paper on the current state of the user experience of the digital workplace.

Whoa there Einstein! Too many words, not making any sense, all put together.

OK fair enough, so there’s the “digital workplace”…

Which is what exactly?

OK good point, and a good question. Well, you know how you’ve got the physical workplace (offices and such); you can consider the digital workplace as the sum of all the IT you might have access to as an employee. Your computer, your smartphone, all the applications you use to do your job, the company intranet, etc. And now we’ve got access to all of these ways to communicate and work people can be more mobile and flexible in the way that they work, and they can work together in new and cool ways.

So IT then?

Yes… and no. Not just IT, there’s all the management practices you need to put around the IT to make sure people stay effective.

And what about the user experience thing?

Well… user experience is how you feel about a system, whether you feel satisfied with it?

Not really?

Dissatisfied with it?

Too right, it’s a pain. Why is that?

Well, companies and organizations weren’t able to create all of their IT services in one go. They’ve usually been built and added to over decades. It started with mainframes for billing and then everything else became electronic. Things like email and calendaring were thrown in, then came the intranet for communications, then usually about 1,000 intranet applications with things like expenses and then tools for collaborating together. Then when people wanted to work outside of the office the IT department put in things like Virtual Private Networks or Citrix that allowed people to connect to the inside from the outside. Then came BlackBerry smartphones and iPhones and instant messaging and web conferencing and suddenly everyone realized that they didn’t really need to be in the office anymore. Or at least, unless they wanted to.


Really. Where are you now?

I’m at home.

What’s your IT like?

It sucks.

There you go. Anyway, the nice people at DWF don’t think that anybody’s really looked at all of this stuff together. So we are looking at how can we map and measure the user experience of all of this stuff, across all of the ways of accessing it with PCs, iPhones and iPads. What are employees motivations when they are using the digital workplace? How are people accessing the digital workplace, what’s stopping them, how do they choose what tool to use and what “sucks”. So what sucks?

The VPN crashes every hour. I have to boot the laptop before I eat breakfast.

Well, you are very calm, considering. Anyway, we’re also going to look at what needs of different sorts of flexible workers are. How often do you work from home?

One or two days a week.

Sure. So have you ever thought if you worked from home more than that you, you know, might get lonely?

I’m talking to you aren’t I?

Good point. Anyway what are the needs of different sorts of flexible workers whether they be on the road, doing a little email after hours or full time home-workers who might get lonely and feel a bit isolated so they might need something different.

Like what?

A trip to the pub might be quite effective. Or a team meeting once a month – it’s not just about IT, as I said. Anyway we’re also going to look at what is the current state in some big organizations, like yours. What they are finding useful, what they are finding painful…

Sounds cool, what can I do to help?

Tell me more about what sucks…

Digital Workplace User Experience will be an exclusive research report for members of the Digital Workplace Forum and will include detailed case studies. Please take part in our survey to find out what frustrates you about your digital workplace.

The survey should take about 10 minutes. All answers will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be passed on. For more details please visit our privacy statement at All participants will receive a summary of the survey results and relative analysis.

Go to the Digital Workplace User Experience survey

About the author

Chris TubbChris Tubb is an independent intranet and digital workplace consultant, who lives in Brighton.

For the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) he is a strategy consultant, lead benchmarker and a member of the research team.

Working with intranets since 1996, in and out of IT and Communications departments, Chris was formerly responsible for intranet strategy and architecture at Orange SA and France Telecom Group.

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