The 6 Best Digital Workplace Trends to Know For 2021

by Chad Smith on December 29, 2020
How COVID-19 Supercharges Workplace Transformation

We’ve been preparing for the digital shift for years, and the pandemic finally tipped the scale. Organizations had no choice but to implement new business models and new technologies to support working from home and to stay ahead of the curve.

Gartner predicts that soon, the greatest competitive advantage for 30% of companies worldwide will come from their ability to implement new technologies and digital workplace trends creatively. If you want your organization to be among them, now is the time to consider how you can use emerging solutions to your advantage.

Workplace Trends for 2021

Here are six top digital workplace trends that will become more prominent in the coming year, according to Gartner’s analysts.

1. Cloud-based Software

The traditional work nucleus consisting of saving work to local drives and servers is difficult to manage across a modern, distributed workforce. It creates data silos and leads to a lack of transparency and collaboration.

Cloud-based software enables smarter, more efficient business processes and workplace management because your organization can access it anywhere. This is true whether you’re looking for an easier way to share documents or a better way to manage multiple buildings.

Unlike legacy software systems that are hosted on premise, cloud-based software doesn’t require a significant upfront capital investment. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to maintain and upgrade as well because the software vendor typically includes this in the subscription fees.

Cloud services continue evolving to make it even easier for users to integrate new technologies with them.

They have become a cornerstone of the digital workplace and will become even more essential in the future, as companies look for better ways to collaborate and store data.

2. The Use of Personal Digital Devices At Work

The lines between home and work have become even more blurry over the past year. Employees are working primarily from their living rooms, bedrooms, or home offices, and many have become accustomed to using their own devices.

That means we’ll see an expansion of the trend known as bring your own device (BYOD) or bring your own thing (BYOT).

Popular digital workplace devices today include not only laptops, tablets, and smartphones, but smart earbuds, smart lights, and voice assistants, according to Gartner.

This trend could soon evolve to include robots and drones that help employees stay safe and automate repetitive tasks.

Allowing employees to use personal devices reduces business costs and gives employees more flexibility.

However, they can make your organization more vulnerable to hackers if they don’t have proper security features.

While 85% of organizations now allow employees to use their own devices, according to Bitglass, only 56% of them have the ability to remove sensitive data from those devices remotely.

As the BYOD trend becomes more popular, it may be time to update your acceptable use policies for workplace technology.

Every employee, contractor, and consultant with access to your company’s data needs to understand their obligations for protecting it.

3. A Virtual Economy

After most in-person events were canceled due to the pandemic, many companies transitioned to doing more business online.

Virtual meetings, conferences, and job interviews became commonplace, while even more of the sales cycle moved online.

With an extended absence of face-to-face meetings, we saw a greater adoption of digital workplace technologies that bridge the gap between the virtual experience and the physical one.

That includes collaboration tools like Slack and alternatives like Ryver and Flock, project management software like Basecamp, Asana, and Monday, file sharing solutions, and even virtual whiteboards.

Companies that weren’t already using customer relationship management platforms like Salesforce or recruitment management systems like Workable are now investing in them.

The ability to find new prospects online, manage simple, secure online payments, and offer better customer support will also become increasingly important in our new virtual economy.

Although these digital workplace trends present challenges, they also bring many opportunities. For instance, it’s easier to find diverse talent and people with highly specialized skills when your candidate pool isn’t limited by geographic boundaries.

And removing friction from the sales process results in a better experience for everyone, as well as the potential for higher profits.

4. A Smart Workplace

Imagine having your own personal workspace that recognizes you and automatically adjusts to your preference for desk and chair height, lighting, temperature, and humidity. You can sit anywhere and get to work right away.

When you’re finished for the day, sensors automatically notify your facilities management team to clean and sanitize the space so it will be ready for the next person.

It sounds like a futuristic fantasy, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is already making smart workplaces a reality. According to Deloitte, smart workplace technology includes sensors, digital signage, facial recognition, and integrated workplace management systems.

Sensors detect real-time occupancy and motion, and they can connect to other IoT-enabled systems to control temperature, lighting, and other environmental factors. Digital signage can make it easier for employees to navigate the workplace and find colleagues by providing interactive maps and directories. Employees can search for anyone by name and see if they are working in the office that day. They can also see which rooms or workstations are available to reserve.

Facial recognition technology allows employees to customize their work areas according to their preferences.

And integrated workplace management systems bring all this data into a single platform facilities managers can use to make adjustments to the work environment as needed.

For instance, they can see occupancy data from the previous week and have a better idea of how many workspaces they’ll need to have available. They can adjust cleaning schedules based on demand, rather than cleaning and sanitizing the entire workplace every day.

And they can optimize their space and energy usage to reduce building costs.

Smart technologies aren’t only for traditional office spaces. Any location can become smart with the right digital technology, including a coworking space or a home office.

These digital workplace trends give employees a more comfortable place to work and help them be more productive.

5. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

Think of all the steps your HR and IT managers have to take to make sure a new employee has all the right software programs and apps installed.

With remote work becoming more popular and more companies investing in agile talent, many are looking for solutions that make onboarding easier.

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) allows employees to access a desktop’s virtual applications from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.

This subscription service is managed by a third-party cloud provider who hosts the backend virtual desktop infrastructure and streams the applications to users.

These virtual desktops can be customized and saved for frequent users or wiped clean each time a user logs out.

DaaS is a perfect solution for companies that need a fast way to manage many users while maintaining security. The providers handle all maintenance, upgrades, storage, and data backup. This reduces costs and the need for IT support.

6. Democratized Workplace Technology Services

In the not-so-distant future, more people will have the power to develop new applications using low-code or no-code tools. The fact that they will be assembling their own services for their own use means that they will be able to create systems that provide solutions to their specific problems. This allows for a new level of personalization in the workplace.

Gartner also predicts an expansion of citizen data science, which will give users the power to extract complex analytics from data without a data science background. This will empower them to make more informed decisions faster.

However, for your workforce to use these solutions to their full potential, you need an integrated platform that helps you make sense of data from many different sources.

That includes occupancy data from sensors and data from other workplace applications, such as service request software and asset management software.

It should have easy-to-use dashboards that allow you to track the key performance indicators that matter most to the success of your organization.

Digital Workplace Trends Are Critical for Your Survival

As we move into a new frontier of flexible, distributed work, these digital workplace trends will help your organization transcend the barriers of the physical workspace.

They will allow for better, more efficient collaboration and a more comfortable, positive employee experience.

It will also position your company to use data in creative ways to benefit both employees and customers.

While we never could have predicted a global pandemic and certainly wish it never would have happened, we saw some of these workplace trends coming several years ago.

That’s why we developed a cloud-based platform to serve at the backbone for your entire workplace. Known as an integrated experience management system (iXMS), it places the needs of employees at the center of everything. It connects to an entire ecosystem of technologies, bringing data from many different sources into one place where you can use them to make more informed decisions. That could even include emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

When it comes to technology, the pace of change has never been faster. The longer you wait to implement your digital transformation initiatives, the farther you will fall behind.

To discover how you can use our iXMS to make the most of these digital workplace trends in the coming year, schedule a consultation with us.


Chad Smith

As the VP of Product Strategy, Chad David Smith wears many hats that leverage his 20+ years of experience in the industry. Chad collaborates directly with clients and partners as well as with the iOFFICE client experience, client success, sales, marketing and development teams to create the most innovative and valued solutions for our clients.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5