Digital Futures: Transitioning into a collaborative digital workspace

I recently attended an event called Radical Collaborations organised by UAL for the Creative Enterprise Week. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear Fred Deakin, Laila Von Alvensleben and Oliver Marlow talk about the importance of creative collaboration. The common thread weaving the entire event was the importance of transitioning into digital work environments.

Laila is a designer for Hanno – a digital studio that has worked with some of the most popular startups like Uber, Betfair and Mirror. Hanno has a culturally diverse team of 8 designers from around the world who work remotely on self-managed and purpose driven projects. They have a flat, non-hierarchical corporate structure in which the designers are given the liberty and the creative freedom to choose relevant projects that could use their expertise. Hanno allows flexible work hours and lets the team choose their own salaries. With project management tools like Asana, Slack and Zoom, creating a digital workspace has become a lot more convenient however, it is very difficult to create the right group dynamic with just digital interactions.

According to Laila 68% of the millennials would like to work remotely. The Hanno corporate culture seems to be moving towards the right direction of creating a culture of radical digital collaboration but how does a location independent work space anchor itself to the values of accountability and trust? Hanno does it by using a digital tool called Harvest to create a transparent system where the team is aware of the details of what each team member is working on. They foster trust and accountability by interacting informally on google hangout and taking annual work trips together. The team brainstorms together on a platform called Mural that helps them innovate and boost creativity. They encourage over communication to make sure important details are not overlooked.

Some tips from Laila on working remotely are:

  1. Start small
  2. Create guidelines
  3. Over communicate
  4. Find an environment that suits your lifestyle to boost productivity.
  5. Work alone and face to face.

In February 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayers announced that employees could no long work remotely which went against the trend of tele-commuting. Yahoo officials said that remote working environments created communication issues that affected collaboration amongst its employees. The critics argued that tele-commuting boosted productivity, reduced company expenses and created more satisfaction in employees. Conversely, Dell wants to get half of its employees to work remotely by 2020 while offering flexible work schedules through its Connected Workspaces Program.1

A remote work environment would not be feasible for certain design fields like architecture and product design as the end product needs to be tangible and requires a team that can collaborate in a physical space. However, they could definitely utilise digital tools to their advantage and enhance productivity and innovation. The transition from a structured office space with cubicles to a flexible and more organic digital workspace not only improves productivity but also encourages entrepreneurship, innovation and energetic creative development.


  1. Burt, J 2013, ‘Dell Wants Half of Employees Working Remotely By 2020’, Eweek, p. 7, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 November 2016.
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