2003 Called and It Wants Its Workplace Back: How the Digital Revolution Changed the Workday of the Past (And What to Do Now)

By Anna Donnelly, Services Product Manager

In this blog series, we cover the components of a successful Employee Experience (EX) platform and how the Microsoft 365 suite of tools and Microsoft Viva are making the workplace more connected, engaged, efficient and productive.

Let’s take a journey to the past. If you’re under the age of 35, you might have zero context for what you’re about to read. If you’re older, corporate life “back in the day” probably meant your workday looked something like this:

  1. Arrive at work and sit down at a desk that has a PC and a phone.
  2. Turn on your PC, get coffee, chat with co-workers — and return to your desk 30 or so minutes later to find your PC is still booting up.
  3. Log into your email, a productivity app like Word or Excel, and maybe a mainframe, a line-of-business application, or a development platform to do your work.
  4. Have a question? Jim over the cube wall can answer everything… and so can any of the other 10 people in your aisle.
  5. Have a meeting? It’s down the hall in the conference room.
  6. Have a question about your career or benefits or what you should be doing at all? Your manager is there with all the right information, connections, and resources to answer your questions.
  7. Recognition of accomplishments, birthdays, anniversaries, and retirements are loudly proclaimed to all (whether you like it or not) with cube decorations and break room celebrations.
  8. Need to learn something new? Get the department together in the training center on the third floor and learn together.
  9. Important communications are sent via email, and décor, bulletin boards, posters — even signs in the bathroom — constantly remind you of the company brand, culture, and short- and long-term initiatives and goals.

This might sound like fun to those of us who did not live it, but the purpose of talking about this isn’t to reminisce about the “good old days.” That brand of corporate life does not sustain the needs of our modern digital work world or the expectations of its employees.

The digital revolution has enabled remote and hybrid work that has changed the lives of workers everywhere for the better — allowing us to be more productive and efficient than ever. But it presents challenges.

A new world of complexity — and expectation

Gone are the days of limited, relevant apps to do our jobs. Some studies have shown that the average employee in the digital age switches between 35 job-critical applications every day. Each one of those applications represents something that needs to be learned, someone that needs a connection to an expert, and efficiencies lost. Employees are distracted by multiple collaboration tools, they have access to tons of information with no way to find what they’re looking for, they don’t know who to contact about anything — and they have a manager who is up against the same challenges that they are.

Questions to gauge your EX

Many employers are addressing the EX like Netflix is still sending DVDs in the mail. If you’re unsure where your organization stands, these are good questions to ask:

  1. Is email the primary way you receive important corporate communications with leadership messaging, initiatives, goals, benefits, and more? If yes, do you even read them all?
  2. Do you use more apps than just email, a mainframe or line-of-business app, and Excel?
  3. If you need to find content and information in your organization, do you perform the digital equivalent of asking people in the next cube, only to find that they are also confused and overwhelmed with information? (Then they tell you to contact three people that send you to three more people who tell you to go to a system you’re unable to access.)
  4. Do you know how to find people who can help you find content and information that they can’t find either?
  5. Do you know definitively where or who to go to for training and career support, upskilling, etc.? If you are leading people, do you know exactly what to tell your team about training and career support, and are you confident that they are upskilling?
  6. If you ask five employees in your organization about the company’s brand, mission, and most important initiatives, will they have the same answer — or will you get five different responses?

Traits of a modern workplace In this video, hear modern work experts break down the components of a digital-first workplace, the importance of a holistic approach, and more.

Taking the first steps toward a better EX

If your answers to any of the above questions fall short of a great EX, help is on the way — in the form of modern, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered productivity and EX tools such as Microsoft Viva and Microsoft Copilot. We’re seeing that these solutions help leaders and employees alike with everything they need to successfully navigate the modern digital workday.

Be sure to check out part two of this series, “From Intranet to Digital Work Hub: Transforming Employee Experience in the 21st Century” where we cover the evolution of the modern intranet. Topics include:

  • Why we need new ways of engaging and informing employees
  • Enhancing communications and search with AI-driven and crowdsourced content
  • Customizing experiences to drive adoption

To learn more about EX with Microsoft Viva, modern workplace solutions, and more, contact us to hear from our experts.