Finnish knowledge workers have done more remote work in the last two years than ever before. From the exceptional conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are returning to the so-called new normal, i.e. hybrid work. The importance of digital tools has grown and new tools have been introduced diligently.
In our Digital Work Environment 2022 report, we looked into the digital work environments and work tools of Finnish organizations already for the fifth time. We researched what the role of a communication intranet is, what other tools are in use in organizations and for which tasks different tools are being used. We also asked what kind of challenges remote and hybrid work causes in organizations and what has been done to solve these challenges.
North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.
The use of Microsoft Teams has increased and it is used more and more widely as a tool for communication, information management and interaction. According to our survey, 88 % of respondents use Teams in their work. Most commonly, Teams is still used for virtual meetings, file management and instant communication between employees. However, some organizations have begun to improve the use of Teams and started to use it more widely also to strengthen community, and it has become a natural tool around which the organization's everyday life revolves.
Of course, there are still challenges associated with Teams. Most of the time, the problems boil down to users' insufficient technical skills and the management of Teams groups. In organizations where Teams is not used by all employees, it is necessary to consider what other communication channels are needed alongside it to reach the entire staff.
The share of Microsoft Yammer, which enables discussions (39 %), has decreased over the past few years. In our survey conducted in 2020, 52 % of organizations were still actively using Yammer. The change can be explained, especially in the organizations working in the Microsoft ecosystem, by the shift to using Teams for communication.
WhatsApp, on the other hand, seems to have maintained its position as a means of communication for organizations (36 %). The use of WhatsApp is emphasized especially in the internal communication of small groups or communication between two employees. The use of WhatsApp is most common in organizations where the proportion of information workers is smaller, and not all employees have access to work tools such as Teams.
Collaboration platforms such as Miro, Mural, Howspace and Trello have become more common since our previous survey. To support remote working, there has been a need for flexible digital platforms that enable innovating ideas together, joint planning and visualization of thoughts. Traditionally this has been done using notepads, flipcharts and conference room walls.
Based on our report, it seems that today's information work can be done with the existing work tools. However, the number of tools will continue to increase and organizations should invest in defining their roles and tasks. It should be clear to users in which channels which target groups are reached and which information is managed and distributed where. The constantly changing operating environment also requires continuous development of users' technical capabilities.
Communication intranet is a shared information bank for everyone
Communication intranet still plays an important role in internal communication and the digital work environment, although sometimes it can be difficult to understand where an intranet begins and where it ends. For example, intranet can be used in Teams while Yammer can be used as the engine for its conversations, or team sites can be closely linked to Teams groups. In addition, other background systems are often linked to the intranet.
In the digital work environment, the communication intranet is today seen precisely as a centralized information bank and as a common communication platform for everyone. It is the starting point for information search, which offers everyone equal access to common information and directs users to other systems, tools, and communication channels.
Compared to the past, the intranet's role seems to have decreased, among other things, in increasing the feeling of belonging. Communication within the teams and coordination of work has also clearly moved to other channels.
Our report shows that Microsoft's cloud solution SharePoint Online is clearly the most common platform for intranets. All in all, 62 % of the intranets in the survey have been implemented with it. The share of SharePoint's on-premise solution was 10 %. The next most common are Confluence, Drupal, Happeo, and WordPress, each with a 5 % share. For example, the publishing systems Drupal and WordPress are selected as intranet platforms when the intranet has special needs related to language versioning or personalization, if a strong own brand look is desired for the intranet, or if, for example, for information security reasons, a cost-effective locally installed solution is needed. Google's Happeo, on the other hand, is a natural alternative for organizations already operating in the Google ecosystem.
Intranet cloud solutions are becoming more and more popular and this leads to more people having access to intranets, regardless of their job description. In connection with intranet reforms, product-based, ecosystem-independent solutions are also increasingly evaluated, which may be of interest, for example, due to their ready-made advanced interaction functionalities or other special functionalities.
Hybrid work is the new normal
Covid forced knowledge workers to work remotely. Now that the pandemic is abating, we are taking a little time off from our home offices to go back to the offices. However, remote work is here to stay, so organizations are currently getting used to the so-called hybrid work model, where work is done in varying degrees both remotely and present at the workplace.
Hybrid work makes it possible to balance work and freetime more flexibly. Commuting doesn't take much time and it's easier to shape worklife according to your own wishes. The tools have already been tested during the mandatory remote work period, and working models have already been found for virtual participation and working together.
However, there are still many challenges associated with hybrid work. Communication and interaction is siloed between small groups and there may be less interaction that crosses organizational boundaries. In virtual meetings, remote participants easily remain distant, and involving them in doing something together requires more effort. The facilitation of virtual meetings must always be someone's responsibility. It also requires a new kind of know-how, which organizations will have to invest in in the future. In general, hybrid work requires good leadership. Mutually accepted operating methods and common rules are key to success.
63 % of those who took part in the survey said that their organization has common operating instructions for hybrid work. 45 % mentioned that common rules of hybrid work have also been agreed upon in their own unit or team. However, every fifth reported that the organization does not have any kind of guidelines regarding hybrid work, so there is still work to do.
Development together and inclusively
We asked the participants of the survey what are the most important goals for the development of digital work in their organization. The vast majority (92 %) mentioned improving communication and information flow as their goal. The second highest number of mentions (62 %) was the smooth handling of hybrid work.
More than half of the respondents also chose improving community spirit, sharing learning and expertise, and increasing interaction across organizational boundaries as their most important goals.
Digital work environment is still strongly led by communications and/or information management. According to the survey, for example, those responsible for business operations or the organization's core functions participate in development in only about one in five organizations.
However, in the answers to the survey and in the in-depth interviews conducted in connection with it, it repeatedly came up how important it would be in terms of the development of digital work environments to understand the bigger picture and to solve the right issues in terms of the organization's operation. This can only be achieved by doing development work together and involving different units and functions of the organization in the development work.
Digital work environment 2022 report
The Digital work environment 2022 report examines the digital work environments and work tools of Finnish organizations for the fifth time. We found out what the role of a communication intranet is. How are the other tools used? What kind of challenges does remote and hybrid work cause in organizations and what methods have been used to solve these challenges?
As part of the survey, we conducted an extensive online survey and interviewed representatives of organizations from 5 different industries. The survey's findings and results will be analyzed in blog posts throughout the fall of 2022.
Noora Linnermo is a specialist in web strategies and digital concept and service design.
She consults the customers on web concepts, project management and requirement specifications driven by the optimal user experience.
With several years’ experience in leading digital service projects she can help customers in planning web projects that meet the requirements of the organization, end users and those responsible for the maintenance. She can help organizations to identify benefits and potentials of their web services and to plan how to take full advantage of them.
Noora has worked with web services in several roles having experience both from the customer’s and solution provider’s side. She has been responsible e.g. for needs assessments, functional and technical specifications, usability testing, implementations and training. Noora has worked as a technical product owner and a system and concept development manager participating to the planning and developing organizations’ digital services.
We are a team of ten consultants, all of whom are experienced designers and technology experts. Every year we design and prepare over 50 different online services and information systems. Our customer satisfaction is very high (9.5 out of 10), and we have helped many customers transform their digital services.
We specialize in high-quality design and requirements specification of digital services. Our mission is to help customers succeed in their software project by creating the best possible foundation for implementation – whether it is an agile implementation done inhouse, a project done with a partner, or a publicly tendered project.
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