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Published Monday, March 29, 2021

The present future of collaboration

Until the very start of 2020, the general opinion was that remote work was not possible for sustaining growth within a startup/scale-up or an established company. I met this first hand in several discussions both as an entrepreneur and as a specialist consultant.

COVID-19 halted the traditional way of work almost immediately as many companies quickly worked to adapt to remote collaboration.


Established companies such as Slack, Zoom, and similar services experienced an explosion of market share as the workforce realized the possibility of being present without physical presence.


Now, you should read this article from the perspective of office workers, engineers, and people in the who do not need to provide a physical service. You should also, as the good citizen you are, remember all the everyday heroes that put their health at risk servicing the primary functions of our infrastructure and realize that this article does not apply to them either.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 26 million Americans are now working remotely, which amounts to about 16% of the total workforce. Moreover, the stay-at-home orders and social isolation restrictions have forced a lot of businesses to move their workers to temporary remote or home offices. This has drastically increased the number of remote workers, many of whom likely will continue working remotely for some time, if not permanently. More than 90% of companies are now working remotely, and many of these organizations are saying that they plan to keep working remotely.



The Remote Working Advantage

The new norm of working has gone a long way in addressing the work/life balance challenges faced by most modern 9-5 workers. It has given workers the chance to tackle work-related issues on the go and attend to work when they are most productive. Workers also have access to their team and projects whenever an idea hits their mind.


Furthermore, remote work has presented a lot of benefits for small and growing businesses and companies whereby talents can be gotten from any part of the world at a better price for both company and employee. This also removes or reduces the cost of maintaining a physical office location while the company expands and grows with its virtual employees. These savings can be invested in the individuals to increase their performance, to the benefit of them and the company. Travel and logistics costs are minimized and the employees have a much easier time in juggling everyday life, which for many results in higher efficiency.


Significantly, a survey of 24,000 employees showed that 98% of the respondents felt that remote working had impacted their work productivity positively.


Finally, companies tend to save $11,000 per person on an average in a year when workers are working remotely at least 50% of the time. Apart from these advantages, we also notice a key advantage offered by remote working; work continuity even in times of crisis and disaster. Companies are establishing remote work for their employees and deploying supportive technologies to ensure better preparation for business continuity during events of disaster.


Remote Work Challenges to Team Collaboration

Although remote working has its benefits, it comes with its challenges as well. One of the biggest challenges faced by employees is the issue of remote management. Back then, you could see a manager pop over to your desk, asking for a status report for any task, or you could easily tap on a colleague to ask certain questions. When it comes to working from home or remote working, there is a need for a whole new approach to management.


This is where collaboration tools play a massive role. Team collaboration tools assist companies working remotely to manage their employees by keeping them engaged and in communication to meet both work needs and social needs.


Between 2017 and 2019, team collaboration adoption was steadily growing, with about 19% of companies and organizations using team collaboration tools. With the present turn of events, my prediction is that these figures will triple. By 2021, more than two-thirds of organizations will embrace team collaboration tools.  If you are an entrepreneur, ask yourself if you and your organization are prepared for this change? If the answer is no, get ready – there’s no avoiding it.



The Evolution of Team Collaboration Technology

There are lots of resources that can help companies manage and improve their remote workforce. According to a recent report, there will be a massive increase in the usage of tools like messaging, video calling, messaging platforms, and others within the next 5 to 10 years. The report also states that there will be a significant growth in the worldwide market for collaboration tools, from about 2.7 billion in 2018 to about 4.8 billion by 2023.


Every company wants its employees to work together even if they can't meet physically in the same office or in the same time-zone. Face-to-face connection helps maintain team bonds and can result in more successful requests, 34 times more successful than emails,  and video conferencing has played an important role in this area.


Video conferencing can assemble an entire team in real-time to hold meetings and brainstorm through various company decisions. Unlike its audio-only counterpart, where you can be distracted or have divided attention, employees are fully engaged in a video conference call. Video calls also reduce the need for business travel. Do you remember when it was normal to not have the webcam activated during a meeting? Neither do I – and it has only been 5-7 months since audio only was the business standard.


The Next Phase of Collaboration Tools

Thanks to video calls and meetings, the next phase of collaboration technology comes with several tools integrated in one, such as the Weavy platform-integrated tools enable workers to share documents and collaborate with files in real-time, allowing extended team to work together in real-time.


The importance of having all these in one application cannot be overrated. The hassle of stitching together multiple tools for both desktop and mobile just to ensure your task is done properly is removed from the picture. You can have all these functions and capabilities built into one suite of collaboration tools. I predict that platforms that can provide these integrated services in one framework represent the future collaboration standard.




Working Successfully with Remote Teams

To manage your remote team successfully, you need to have a blend of trust, communication, consistency, and proper understanding. Here are a few pointers to help you achieve this success.


1. Building trust should be a priority:

Always keep in mind that trust is the foundation and backbone of a successful company. Trust is not developed overnight; it is built over time. To succeed with your team, you must encourage team bonding in order to build trust. You can set time aside for small talks before or after meetings to help in building the team bond. Even better,  why not have a continuously open video call where participants can drop in and out as they please.


2. Establish an on-boarding process:

It is simple; ensure that every remote worker has the same on-boarding experience. Everyone should have the same access to communication systems, handbooks, and guidelines that explain the company process.  


3. Clear expectations and goals:

Clearly state the expectation and goals for all virtual meetings.


4. Use varied channels of communication:

There are numerous ways to communicate with workers virtually. Some methods include emails, chats, text messaging.For simple information, use  a lean method like messaging. But for more complicated and deeper information, use more comprehensive channels like video conferencing.

In conclusion, remote working is here to stay.  How well you succeed depends on the collaboration tools you choose and the internal and external collaboration processes you develop. As I noted earlier, remote working comes with challenges like:

  • Isolation
  • Trouble separating work from home
  • Isolation from the company

The right combination of collaboration tools and processes will let you successfully meet these challenges and opportunities.  Your collaboration suite should have the following key services:

  • A collaboration and community platform
  • A file-sharing service
  • Audio and video chat app
  • Virtual meeting software
  • Automation service
  • Project management system
  • Decision-making tool

Forging the right team, environment, and resources can mean the difference between success and failure for your company in these changing times.