Workspace Innovation in the Time of COVID-19

07 September 2020

By Andy Downs –


The pace of digital transformation continues to accelerate as organisations around the world reset their business strategies and embrace new ways of working. The arrival of COVID-19 has brought with it many challenges for today’s technology teams, but also a bevy of opportunities – as well as an escalation in timelines. By one measure, the response to the pandemic has “fast-forwarded” digital adoption by five years! The focus on employee experience and digital tools intensifies as more organisations seek to enable and support fully remote workforces with technology, tools, and processes that are now deemed mission critical.

Many organisations have reacted quickly to social distancing and self-isolation tactics, doing what they can to keep the lights on and employees safe. However, organisations that are innovating to keep employees connected, engaged, productive, and secure whilst working remotely are the ones that will succeed.

However, the rapid digital acceleration and workspace transformation is happening amidst an existing digital skills deficit and an increasing threat of cyberattacks against small and medium-sized businesses. So, how do you realistically build the workspace of the future, while staying safe? We suggest you focus on three key areas of innovation: technology tools; workspace culture; and skills and experience.

Technology Tools

To remain relevant, competitive, and efficient, organisations employ various workspace technologies, such as email, business applications, and collaboration tools. What’s different today is that these tools must now work together to break down barriers (like a fully remote workforce) to foster collaboration and communication. The new digital workspace is powered by technology that empowers employees to work the way they want to work, wherever they may be.

The first step is to inventory existing tools and technologies and identify gaps that exist across your current toolbox. Tools are no longer limited to your technology team; all team members will benefit from the right tools (and soft skills, like openness to change). Innovation and attitude must be incorporated across the entire organisation, to ensure security and resiliency by design.

While teams want to move fast with these enhancements, it’s critical that the digital workspace is underpinned by the appropriate security, risk and compliance controls. Video conferencing is often the low-hanging fruit for organisations, and providers know this. Amidst the pandemic, Google allows free access to advanced features, Microsoft offers a free six-month trial of Teams to select industries, and Zoom lifts time limits.

But have you considered how you’ll keep your remote workers – and your confidential or proprietary information – safe? Cisco, for example, fortified its Webex tool during the pandemic and offered 24/7 assistance for businesses who use the tool. For a crash course, please see this tip sheet for how to use video conferencing tools safely and securely.

Recommended measures include: proper access controls via the tools and privacy settings; secure home connections; and, a smart approach to files, recordings, and screen sharing to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive information. Lastly, a common sense but critical tip for any technology tool is to create a system to ensure you’re using the latest version of the application. This is especially true if you’re already using a tool – check it now for updates or patches to mitigate the risk of security flaws that hackers can exploit.

Workspace Culture and Environment

The key ingredient to lasting change is not platforms, it’s people. Technology and tools are important components, but true transformation is driven by the every-day culture and environment at your organisation. As you consider the practical, technological aspects of transformation, consider also how you can invest and embed innovation into your culture and ethos.

Not surprisingly, the best way to achieve this is to start with people first and technology second. Take the time to understand employee work habits and behaviours and create a technology-driven culture and environment that supports employee needs. In other words, as you identify tools for productivity and efficiency by embracing virtual collaboration environments (such as Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, and G Suite,) also consider what tools might help employees excel, play to their strengths, or simply feel more comfortable, happy, and heard.

Focussing on workspace culture also brings welcome outcomes that trickle across your entire organisation, including happier employees which leads to happier customers. Compared to other businesses, those that focus on a positive, innovative, people-first culture have been found in one study to have 26% fewer mistakes, 22% higher productivity, 41% lower absenteeism, and 30% higher customer satisfaction. Further, staff are also more likely to refer their company to others, assisting with talent acquisition and retention.

Leadership buy-in is critical to build an innovative, people-first culture, and this includes your technology leaders. Ask what matters to people, either directly or through anonymised polls, surveys, or other feedback loops. Aim to remove the barriers that prevent your team from excelling, which is where the right technology tools (see above section) comes in.

Technology Expertise and Skills

Prior to the pandemic, the UK already exhibited a digital skills deficit, meaning a lack of people with the experience or education needed to fill in-demand roles related to technology, including general digital competencies, big data, IOT, robotics, and AI.

According to Deloitte’s digital skills gap analysis, the number of executives who believe graduates have ample digital skills is down from the previous year, from 20 to 12 percent. More than three-quarters of executives expressed challenges with digital recruitment, and only 17 percent thought that UK companies were leading the way with digital.  Further, research from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) shows that these digital skills are essential requirements for two-thirds of occupations, which account for over 80 percent of online job vacancies. It’s a challenging landscape and the solutions are not simple. The DCMS study, for example, proposes that regions and industries develop digital skills policies to meet the demand.

Post-pandemic, as the need for knowledgeable, security-driven digital skills grows even greater, organisations will review the shape and structure of their technology teams; many will rapidly pivot their teams and technologies to deliver new tools and processes, especially around resiliency and cybersecurity. Take Microsoft for example. Recognising that digital skills development is a path to inclusive economic recovery and future resiliency, it launched a global skills initiative to bring these needed skills to 25 million people by the end of the year.

But that’s Microsoft. For your organisation, a more realistic and rapid response to the digital skills deficit and shifting demands – keeping in mind the increasing need for business resiliency – is to partner with a skilled technology transformation partner, like KA2. Our team can quickly get to work to help your organisation innovate its workspace for post-pandemic success – from helping you choose the most secure workplace collaboration tools to ensuring a secure configuration posture for your remote tools with our Smarter Security Controls. And we do it all with a people-first mindset.

Do you seek to transform your workspace toward a resilient, digital-first future? Smart move. Please get in touch with us today to share your challenges and goals and craft a plan to build the secure, competitive workspace of tomorrow, today.