As well as disrupting almost every aspect of daily life, the COVID-19 global pandemic has fundamentally changed the structure of many workplaces.
Rather than people commuting to a central workplace, many now undertake their roles from home with occasional trips into the office. It’s a trend that was almost unthinkable just 12 months ago but one that’s now regarded as normal.
Indeed, many organizations have created what is now known as a hybrid workplace. Some staff are working from centralized offices while others continue to work remotely.
This massive shift required a rethink of how workflows and communication are undertaken. Methods that made sense when everyone was in the same location have been replaced with new ways of working.
Central to the whole change is the concept of effective collaboration. We need to find innovative ways to ensure staff can continue to interact and share knowledge and ideas as they did before the pandemic.
What Does It Take to Effectively Collaborate in the Hybrid Workplace?
A number of key steps need to be followed to achieve effective collaboration in a hybrid workplace, including:
- Keep everyone on the same page: The push to work from home highlighted the importance of making the most efficient version of a process available to teams, no matter where they find themselves working. Processes should be accessible from an online, central repository with real-time edits available and the opportunity for teams to suggest improvements at any time.
- Senior management buy-in: For effective collaboration to remain part of an organization’s culture, those at the top need to communicate its importance. Executive leaders should explain to all staff how significant it is to work as one team towards a common goal, along with the steps that will be taken to support this approach over the long-term.
- Automate where you can: Manual tasks can be time-consuming and error prone whether people are in the office or working remotely. Set your teams up for success by investing in technical solutions like workflow automation to automate common tasks like sign-offs, data entry and contract filing.
- Select the best communication tools: With face-to-face collaboration now far less frequent, digital alternatives have taken on new significance. Take time to assess the tools that are in use and determine whether they are the best fit for your organization. Remember that it’s unlikely a single tool will suit all people, so be prepared with alternatives.
- Audit remote staff: Many people were given very little warning before having to shift from office to home working mode. Although over a year has passed, some still may not have all the equipment they need to support flexible and effective collaboration. Identify any shortfalls and provide extra resources where needed.
- Equip meeting spaces: Any face-to-face meetings conducted in the office are now likely to also involve some remote workers. Ensure each meeting room is equipped with cameras, monitors, and good quality audio equipment to ensure communication is clear for remote participants.
- Boost knowledge sharing: Effective collaboration requires more than the capacity to hold group video chats. Mechanisms must also be in place that allow the transfer of knowledge. Take advantage of content management systems, CRMs and collaboration applications to ensure that corporate knowledge is readily accessible by staff, regardless of their location.
- Track workflows and tasks: It’s important for people to be able to check how other members of their team are tracking when it comes to completion of their work tasks. Deploy tools that allow team members to log their action lists and indicate what stage they have reached with each item.
- Conduct regular reviews: Work practices are likely to continue to evolve as the world comes to terms with the long-term impact of the virus. Regularly review the collaboration tools you have in place to ensure they are delivering the best possible support for your organization.
- Be open to feedback: Encourage all staff to regularly report back on their experiences with collaborating in the new hybrid environment. The best people to critically assess how tools and processes are performing at those who use them every day. Take this feedback and use it to guide changes as the workplace continues to evolve.
By being mindful of these steps, it will be possible to create and maintain effective collaboration in a hybrid workplace. All staff will feel they remain a part of core operations and will be able to communicate and share information with ease.
The result will be enhanced productivity and better levels of service for customers. COVID-19 may have caused significant disruption for organizations, but those prepared to take the required steps will be well-placed to take advantage of fresh opportunities in-front of them in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Related Article: Defining the Knowledge-Centric Digital Workplace
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