Over the past year, we've all been there—stuck in our fifth (or more) Zoom meeting of the day, struggling with our cameras and mute buttons, doing our best not to interrupt over talk over our colleagues, and trying to stay attentive and collaborative.
It's a lot for even the most engaged employees, but some (read: most) of us, whether we work remotely or in an office, need a little help to boost our productivity. By providing tools for virtual collaboration, a dispersed workforce can work together more effectively regardless of location. A recent survey found that collaborative work is five times more likely to result in higher performance.
Let's look at why virtual collaboration is vital to a company's success, why it should be one of the main focuses of a digital transformation, and what kind of collaborative technology can help companies accomplish an ongoing digital transformation.
Why digital transformation needs collaborative technology
In the wake of COVID-19, workforces are more dispersed than ever. Companies that had already embraced remote work capabilities took the necessary shift in stride, while those committed to more traditional, analog processes had to scramble to keep pace and survive. Even before COVID, in 2019, digital transformation risk was the top concern for business leaders.
Many of these shifts also introduced new opportunities. For better or worse, work is no longer tied to 9-to-5, in-office environments, and talent isn't confined to geographic locations. What's more, an increasing number of companies embrace contractual employees and freelancers for their specific expertise on one-off projects. As companies continue to adapt to these personnel and work habit shifts, undergo digital transformation, and move toward more flexible work environments, collaborative technology (think: messaging platforms, cloud-based, visual collaboration tools, teleconferencing, etc.) is an increasingly essential part of a productive workforce.
Why businesses should welcome virtual collaboration during digital transformation
A remote, dispersed workforce is not necessarily a collaborative one, and that's why virtual collaboration technology is so important. While digital workplaces may no longer have the opportunity for quick meeting room huddles or water cooler chats, virtual collaboration tools can empower employees to collaborate effectively wherever they happen to be.
Here are some other benefits of a digitally empowered, collaborative workplace:
Emails are helpful to recap and document details, but they're a poor way to collaborate. Attachments sent back and forth between inboxes leave a lot of room for human error and poor version control, and necessary feedback and input from critical stakeholders can get lost in translation. Virtual and visual collaboration tools make it easy to collaborate on projects in real time, so everyone stays on the same page, eliminating unnecessary rounds of edits and endless games of email "telephone."
Improves communication and strengthens team relationships
The possibility for misunderstanding and frustration to fester is higher when collaboration is relegated to emails and more manual forms of communication. Virtual collaboration via messaging apps allows team members to quickly address questions and solutions, while video conferencing tools replicate the face-to-face interactions that build camaraderie. Visual collaboration tools like virtual whiteboards also make it easy to communicate concepts without lengthy meetings or email writeups.
Improves flexibility and innovation
Removing the confines of a physical office proves to have many benefits. It's said that creativity and inspiration get a huge boost when we change up our working locations. Employees who can choose their work locations also report feeling 88% more engaged, and the flexibility of remote work and virtual collaboration also helps close the gender gap and make room for people with different backgrounds and roles. These benefits don't just sound and look nice on paper, either. Diversity of thought and experience have huge demonstrable benefits on business too.
Helps manage tasks and workload
Virtual collaboration tools aren't limited to direct communication tools. Cloud-based file management tools can help ensure every member of your team has access to the files resources they need to do their job well—at any time, from any location. Schedule management tools can also take the guesswork out of meeting scheduling across time zones.
That biweekly creative review that regularly needs to be rescheduled because key stakeholders are out-of-office? Now, the video session can be captured, along with links to any relevant files, notes, and commentary, and shared over Slack channels for easy access and future reference.
Reduces meeting frequency
How often have you left a meeting thinking, "we could have handled this over a quick email or Slack chat convo?" Virtual collaboration tools enable quick, seamless communication across departments which helps reduce the amount of unnecessary and time-consuming meetings.
The less time your team members are stuck in repetitive, unnecessary meetings, the more time they have to focus on more meaningful work.
Virtual collaboration tools to consider
Virtual collaboration tools aren't just great for digital workplaces or remote teams, they can improve collaboration for any workplace environment.
Teams of any size and in any industry can benefit from project management, video conferencing, chat, file management, and scheduling tools. And many organizations are now turning to visual collaboration platforms like Lucid to align teams, improve efficiency, and gain clarity.
How virtual collaboration tools benefit teams
When relying on virtual collaboration, it's just as important to establish working habits to maximize the impact of those tools.
With remote teams, it's easy to quickly feel disengaged or detached from workplace culture and team members. For managers, that means regular check-ins and one-on-ones are more critical than ever. Finding ways to build camaraderie when you don't have a regular opportunity to chat around the office or head out for a quick lunch break is also important.
Virtual collaboration tools can make it easier to establish and stick to regular team and individual meetings. For team meetings, make sure to send out an agenda ahead of the call to ensure everyone is prepared and ready to participate. For both team and individual meetings, think about taking a few minutes for an icebreaker to allow everyone to connect or share updates on their successes and frustrations before getting down to business.
Virtual project management, file sharing, and virtual whiteboards make it easy to share important resources, documents, and mockups so everyone can stay up to speed regardless of their location or time zone. While cloud-based file sharing eliminates many permission-based roadblocks, it's important to establish guidelines around how documents are named, stored, and shared. Make sure master templates are locked, for example, and develop naming conventions to maintain controls on versioning while still empowering seamless collaboration.
Host virtual brainstorming meetings
Digital transformation and virtual collaboration don't have to be all about business and productivity, they can also build team camaraderie and foster innovation. Consider hosting cross-functional and cross-departmental virtual brainstorming meetings to bring new ideas to the table and help people across the organization get to know each other better. Or, leave all work behind, and host a virtual happy hour, game night, or movie watch party.
For years, digital transformation has focused more on processes and less on collaboration. Now, as more companies embrace digital workforces, those priorities are changing. As work grows more complex, virtual collaboration is all about bridging divides and empowering teams with the tools they need to support efficient, creative, innovative, and productive work.
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