VP & Country Manager, Citrix Canada.

The digital workspace is no longer "the workspace of the future," it's reality. Many companies have adopted mobility and flexible work policies, meaning mobile technology is an essential component of today's workspace.

While it's easy for companies to talk about committing to mobile work, how far have businesses come in transitioning to a digital workspace?

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According to a study conducted by Oxford Economics for Citrix, Building the Digital Workplace, Canadian companies take the lead in many aspects of preparing for digital work. Seventy-five per cent of Canadian organizations surveyed make data securely available to all users using file sharing, compared with to 59 per cent globally, and 77 per cent provide training to all employees for tools, software and services. And it's expected that even more progress will be made over the next three years both in Canada and globally.

At the same time, while companies have invested in technology, many have not made the broader changes necessary to fully adopt the mobile movement. In fact, just one-fifth of Canadian executives surveyed said their company has a cohesive, integrated mobile strategy in place.

Maximizing the value of digital workspaces is more than just offering employees a day to work from home, giving them a smart phone to work on, or increasing the IT budget. Comprehensive mobile strategies are crucial to capitalizing on the new way of working and require the collaboration of departments beyond just IT.

So, what needs to be considered when building an effective digital workspace?

Firstly, companies must rethink core processes and policies around digital work to accommodate new ways of working. This requires an overhaul of the current business model, security procedures, employee workflow and expectations, and even the physical layout of the office. In developing mobile-first business processes related to enabling off-site environments, flexible work schedules and mitigating burnout of constantly connected employees, companies can maximize the digital workspace. As a result, they are also likely to see an improvement in employee performance, productivity and company profitability.

The second key to building an effective digital workspace is to embrace a flexible, digital corporate culture that maintains open lines of communication between managers and employees and clearly conveys expectations around after-hours and remote work.

While an increasingly connected work force can raise the concern of employee burnout with the blurring of lines between personal and professional time, it is important that companies enforce a culture that promotes healthy work-life balance.

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Organizations should be encouraged to allow employees to choose their own hours and location (when and where they can be most productive), or to conduct personal business during work hours, as long as regular work is completed. Business leaders can encourage employees to disconnect after work hours and set the standard by disconnecting themselves.

Companies can even use the physical office as a vehicle to promote effective corporate culture. For example, through open-layout offices that are accommodating to on-the-go workers and include quieter spaces for independent work, businesses can support a culture that is flexible and collaborative without sacrificing productivity.

Business leaders can also identify new metrics to assess employee performance. This means shifting away from a focus on the number of hours clocked while physically in the office, toward a more holistic evaluation of his/her contribution.

Finally, but most importantly, security needs to be at the top of the priority list.

With the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks, companies need to implement every safeguard possible to prevent a potential breach. A digital work environment can reduce security risks dramatically. Remote access of company data can pose concerns for IT professionals; having the proper, secure IT infrastructure and policies in place can safeguard information.

For example, companies can host all company apps and data through virtualization solutions while providing virtual access to employees regardless of their location or device they're on. This allows companies to avoid security threats in case of lost devices or virus-infected devices. This also removes the burden from individuals to ensure they've applied security updates and patches on their devices, apps and OSes, since all updates can be virtually done from the data centre.

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Overall, digital workspaces deliver unique advantages for both employees and organizations. The Oxford Economics survey found that digital work helps employees solve problems more creatively (96 per cent), provide better customer service (87 per cent) and collaborate more effectively (90 per cent). Process efficiency, customer experience and profitability are also identified as top payoffs of digital work. Not to mention, it can help companies address talent gaps and widens the pool of available workers from different geographies or other limitations.

With digital innovation touching all aspects of the business world, it is the companies that are focused and strategic in their approach, where C-suite, IT and HR work collaboratively, that will become leaders in the mobile movement.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.