The Covid-19 pandemic has seen businesses in every industry rushing to send their employees home to work remotely.

In fact, the common maxim today is that staying online as a result of the pandemic will likely become a permanent feature of corporate culture in the future, and this is driving a critical need for digitisation and collaboration tools.

However, even before the pandemic struck, the days when the workplace was merely a ‘bricks and mortar’ space that staff sat in during regular office hours, were over.

The always-connected, instant access environment that we demand today is dissolving the distinction between the physical office and the slew of locations where work actually gets done.

So says Fred Saayman, Huawei business unit executive at Pinnacle ICT. “Moreover, as the line between our professional and personal lives blurs and the workplace becomes increasingly digital, staff are communicating with each other, and with customers in previously unimagined ways.

“They are demanding tools that enable them to build productive relationships beyond what would once be considered normal workgroups.”

He says that, in order to keep employees happy, and to enable them to work more productively, top businesses are starting to roll out completely new working environments – truly digital workplaces.

“Forward-thinking organisations are integrating the tools that staff use all the time, from email, instant messaging, HR applications and video conferencing to social media platforms, a truly digital workplace sees communication barriers break down, and enables organisations to transform the employee experience by promoting innovation that leads to efficiency, productivity and growth.”

According to Saayman, while workplace transformation is nothing new, the pace of technological change is forever altering the ways in which workers connect, collaborate and communicate, with each other, with suppliers and other third-party partners, and with clients.

“In addition, the flood of information that is drowning today’s enterprises is driving a critical need to enable employees to find what they need, when they need it. This, combined with the unprecedented pace of today’s work environments, means that staff need to work more rapidly and collaborate more effectively, to get their work done and meet their deadlines.”

These changes are also being driven by never-ending demands to boost productivity and at the same time lower costs, making it increasingly difficult for workers to meet the expectations of their employers, and on a deeper level, the markets in which they operate.

“One thing is certain though, and that is that all these trends are completely reshaping the workplace, and businesses need to respond to these changes.”

Saayman says this is where organisations across the board need to look at intelligent collaboration, to support today’s emerging digital workplaces. “These tools help businesses support changes, and enable their staff to work more collaboratively and transparently.

“Furthermore, they allow offline and online communications to be amalgamated, enabling employees to stay connected via their mobile access, and have any time and anywhere access to the business applications and tools they need to do their jobs.”

These aren’t the only benefits, he says. “Intelligent collaboration tools help to improve the employee experience by offering them the choice, flexibility and personalisation they need.

“These tools also support virtual work environments that enable staff to remain connected in remote, distributed or virtualised locations while still ensuring customer privacy and keeping operational risk under control. Another big plus is the obvious cost savings and increased productivity that follows when workers are given the right tools and information at the appropriate time.”

Ultimately, intelligent collaboration is at the heart of the digital workplace, which is made up of all the technologies employees use to get work done today, not only the ones already being used, but the ones yet to be implemented.

These range from critical business applications to enterprise social media and virtual conferencing solutions. And as the workplace continues to evolve and transform, employee expectations will evolve too, and businesses that do not jump on board the digital workplace train risk being overtaken by their competitors, Saayman explains.

“Those who don’t find the risk of doing nothing enough to light a fire under them, need to seriously consider the benefits. In a world with a global skills shortage, no business can afford to lose highly-skilled staff.

“Research reveals that nearly two-thirds of employees would take a job that pays less well, if they had the option of working away from the office,” he adds.

“Also, information workers want the latest and greatest communication tools, such as instant messaging, because email and other tools from yesterday no longer meet their needs. And this will only accelerate as workers seek to forge productive business relationships beyond traditional workgroups more and more, in an attempt to boost knowledge sharing across the business.”

Saayman says that, to support this knowledge sharing and collaboration, organisations must give employees the tools they need to effectively collaborate, communicate and connect with each other.

“With this in mind, Huawei recently debuted an intelligent collaboration product named IdeaHub, to drive enterprise collaboration and productivity.”

As mentioned earlier, improving communication and collaboration within industries of all types will no doubt be the “new normal” that everyone is talking about in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Therefore a new generation of intelligent office collaboration solutions are needed to help this revolution happen more rapidly. IdeaHub is a productivity tool that enables an all-scenario smart office, an intelligent endpoint which integrates multiple functions including multi-screen collaboration between mobiles and PCs, interactive whiteboard, remote collaboration, FHD video conferencing and built-in HD AppGallery,” he says.

IdeaHub is set to forever alter the way different departments within an organisation talk to each other to improve both the employee and the customer engagement experience. “IdeaHub even features a “virtual exhibition” of products and services.”

Saayman describes the tool as disruptive as it can break down silos and enable staff to share ideas in ways they have never been able to do before. “It is set to help organisations build up truly intelligent work environments where ideas and information can flow more readily, to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs.”