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Trust Is What Makes a Success of Digital Workplaces

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Digital workplaces are more successful when employers trust staff and give them more autonomy, a new study from Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University and MIT’s Centre for Information Systems Research (CISR) has found.

Flexible working—both remotely and across spaces in an open-plan office—is becoming more common, but some companies are dialling back the clock and corralling staff to cubicles again. HP, Best Buy and Yahoo have all rescinded flexible working privileges, claiming that they impeded collaboration and innovation. 

Nick van der Meulen of RSM surveyed 313 organisations to find out whether the benefits of a centralised staff, including better collaboration and knowledge-sharing, could be balanced with employee’s desire for flexible work.

The research led him to identify the practices that make digital workplaces succeed, as measured by profit growth, market share growth and employee satisfaction. The best performing digital offices have well-crafted physical, digital workspaces and social networks, all designed to facilitate collaboration and working in tandem. 

“Connectivity built across silos rather than in an isolated fashion is critical to empowering employees to provide seamless customer experiences,” van der Meulen said

Furthermore, these successful workplaces are run by managers who trust staff to work independently and how they see fit. This trusting management allows staff to experiment with new approaches to work and aren’t angry or discouraged when these initiatives fail. It encourages staff to share and learn from these mistakes and failures and to continue developing innovative ideas.

“The end result is that they empower employees to make decisions in the best interest of customer experience and their work,” van der Meulen said.

He said that to foster successful digital workspaces, leaders at other companies need to see their role as facilitating workplace design rather than directing it.

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