The rise of the unified workspace
It’s 9:15 on a Monday morning and you have 30 unread emails, your Slack channels are pinging, you have a conference call in ten minutes to discuss a presentation that’s buried somewhere in an email you can’t find, and two applications just popped up with notifications for meetings during the same time slot. You’re still waiting to hear back from the in-house project manager on one of the accounts your agency is collaborating with, and a contract graphic designer just sent you prototypes in a file format your computer doesn’t recognize. If you make it through the day avoiding catastrophe, you’ll call it a success.
This isn’t what you signed up for, but the drowning feeling that perpetually engulfs you seems inevitable. Everyone, from upper management to freelance collaborators to your co-workers, seem to be in the same boat. The environment of distraction — so different than the vision you used to have for your future — is the new normal.
You used to think of yourself as a creator, as someone with the skill sets and passion to make a difference. You wanted your ideas to come first, and tools second. They were supposed to make your life easier, to leverage your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. This is, after all, the whole point of a tool, isn’t it? To extend our capabilities, to help us achieve a task.
That’s not how you feel, though, as you stare down the abyss of your Monday. These days, you’ve come to see the proliferation of tools as the enemy: cold-hearted rulers that disrupt, distract and ultimately make you work for them.
So you do the only thing you can: you sigh, put out a few fires, get another cup of coffee (your third of the day already), and steel yourself for the day ahead.
The numbers are in. Despite — or perhaps because of — the explosion of productivity apps and tools, the average knowledge worker is now moving between projects and platforms between ten to sixty times an hour. This cacophony of applications, notifications, and context switching costs knowledge workers 11k a year. With 65 million knowledge workers in the US, that’s a 650B dollar a year problem.
The problem isn’t just financial, either. With upwards of 75% of employees reporting that they feel distracted and disengaged on the job, and the border between work and life growing ever more porous, what we are dealing with is a world in which a well-intentioned workforce is stripped of their sense of control and ability to make meaningful contributions. We are at war with everything that stands between us and the work we want to be doing. We are working to get to work.
How did we get here?
The simple answer is that the problem has compounded exponentially, because solutions have dealt with the issue at the surface, rather than at its roots. As trends in distributed and autonomous work have increased in digital workplaces, an explosion of tools have arrived on the scene, all attempting to corral the nebulous, infinitely expanding and mutating world of tech-based work into one arena. With the best of intentions, everyone has been scrambling to solve the issue of too many tools by creating yet another tool, in the belief that it can become the tool to rule them all.
We don’t need another tool. What we need is a work environment designed for focused work. The rise of a unified digital workspace isn’t just about increasing productivity and the financial incentives that come along with that. It’s about ushering in a paradigm shift in how work gets done.
As humans, we exist in a world that is both outside of us and of our making. We construct tools that then define the scope and flow of our lived reality. In simple terms: we construct tools, and we are also constructed by them.
Great leaps forward in human innovation have frequently come about when complex problems at the individual level are reimagined through a higher order system of coordination. Just as recent trends have radically reimagined the physical layout of workplaces to optimize innovation, productivity, and collaboration, the digital workspace is in dire need of a radical reimagining; one that promotes focus and is easy to use, and human-centric in design.
The movement towards a unified digital workspace is not the introduction of yet another tool. It’s a holistic system that speaks to our base intuitions, needs, and wants as knowledge workers. It offers a path towards a profound shift in how we show up, both as individuals and as teams, to solve the many challenges we face in the modern day.
So let’s reimagine your Monday morning. You arrive at work refreshed, because you actually had a two day weekend in which you slept, spent time with friends and family, and got some vitamin D. When you sit at your desk and open your laptop, you’re not met with a barrage of notifications, because the principal project you’re working on has already been defined, all of the relevant communication, documents, and research filtered and centralized for you onto a simple, intuitive page.
You don’t worry about whether you are missing out on something or your co-worker is angry at you. Instead, you do something novel. You work. You’re able to get focused, stay focused, and switch seamlessly between tasks when it’s necessary. You can trust in this system, because the software isn’t just software: it’s the embodiment of a value system that permeates and defines the workspace culture of your company.
That means everyone involved is on the same page. Your boss, colleagues, and collaborators are all clear and focused on the task at hand. Better yet, the internal voice that worried you were doing something wrong by prioritizing your tasks, not breaking your flow for every Slack notification that comes in, and actually clocking out at the end of the day — all practices which are indisputably beneficial for individuals and the companies they work at — has gone away. The results are in. You consistently contribute work that you are proud of. Your stress levels have plummeted. You feel appreciated and supported, and this in turn has boosted your engagement. You aren’t feeling guilty when you leave at the end of the day, and you’re excited when you show up.
It’s no secret that work is a stop start process, with peaks of creativity and troughs of grinding doggedly towards a solution. Nothing can — or ever will — change that. But the tools we use throughout this multifaceted process shouldn’t hinder us. They should help. Focus isn’t won back via dozens of disjointed UIs, regardless of how pretty they are. We reclaim our focus by changing our thinking, by getting back in touch with what it means to work in a meaningful and truly productive way.
To learn more about Unified Digital Workspaces and the Focused Work movement, visit www.dialed.ai.