Every organization has a fundamental interest in making sure their employees work and communicate with each other as efficiently as possible, as this directly impacts business productivity — which ultimately makes or breaks a business.
Every business needs a core so the entire communications and collaboration strategy doesn’t collapse in on itself. With the rise of digitization and innovative technologies, a new breed of platform (or content collaboration hub) is emerging that creates a single place for work.
Gartner defines the hub, or, content collaboration platform (CCP), as a platform that covers a range of products and services that enable content productivity and collaboration. CCPs are aimed at individuals and teams, inside or outside an organization. Additionally, CCPs increasingly support lightweight content management and workflow use cases. There is an issue, though — with these new platforms comes the problem of constant connectivity.
Advantages and Disadvantages of CCPs
Steve Pritchard, an HR Consultant at Checklate, points out that there are advantages and disadvantages of collaboration platforms.
Anything which makes it easier for staff to work together is a good thing as it means employees can spend more time focusing on the task at hand rather than worrying about communication, technological or organizational issues. “This is why collaboration hubs are so beneficial to businesses; they minimize time wasted by communication delays on group projects, improving productivity as a result,” he said.
There are a plethora of platforms to aid collaboration in today's market, many of which enable staff to have constant communication with each other. This means staff can instantly see any updates or changes to a project and simultaneously work on a task from separate locations, which is highly beneficial for businesses.
The big drawback, though, is that workers never switch off. “The presence of constant connection only becomes counterproductive when it is misused, for example, adding in extra communication processes which are unnecessary,” he said. The problem is that they facilitate over-communication with staff discussing simple tasks in an unnecessary level of detail. You don’t need to discuss every small task you do over a communication channel before finalizing it, some issues don’t require this amount of attention.
In this respect, it is important to remember that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should. Small tasks should be given a certain degree of autonomy, giving staff the trust to complete simple jobs to an acceptable standard, without having to discuss them via a communications channel. This removes the time wasted by unnecessary communication.
Related Article: 7 Ways to Measure Workplace Collaboration and Productivity Tool Efficacy
When Technology Causes Overload
Randstad US and Future Workplace published the results of a study titled Technology and the Employee Experience: How Technology Impacts Your Most Important Asset, last April. The survey of more than 1,200 US human resource leaders, line managers and employees focused on the influence of technology throughout the employee lifecycle — from hiring to engagement and retention.
While the positive impact of using technology in the digital workplace was highlighted, the report also revealed a number of negative impacts that technology can create.
It showed that more than half of managers (56%) and employees (55%) alike say they use digital communications to handle work conflicts instead of discussing the situation in person or over the phone. What’s more, 79% of managers say technology encourages immediate action over strategic thinking. More importantly, the research highlights just how pervasive the ‘always-connected’ culture is in the enterprise.
"Instant access to collaboration and productivity tools means both managers and employees may feel pressure to check in, even when they’re not officially on the job. And if employers aren’t clear about their expectations for after-hours communications, employees may not know how and when they’re expected to be 'on'," the report reads.
Asked how technology has impacted their work life, over half (56%) of the managers surveyed reported being unable to disconnect from work after hours. Over one-third (37%) of employees also have difficulty disconnecting from the workplace.
When asked if their managers expect them to answer emails or take meetings after office hours, most employees (67%) say no. However, there was a significant number (30%) of men who felt they needed to be available, whereas only 18% of women felt this way. Bottom line, connected workplaces are causing problems for large numbers of workers.
The solution to this overload? Organizations must lead their teams to develop positive technology habits, the report reads. When asked if their companies promote healthy technology habits, 8% of managers and nearly a quarter (23%) of employees say they’re unsure. This gap highlights the fact that more guidance is needed when it comes to technology use in the workplace. Does constant connection with teammates really make you more productive, or is there an overload point?
Related Article: 4 Best Practices for Real-Time Collaboration and Communication
Communications Is Good, Over-communication Is Not
Communication is the key element that can make or break any team, said Iwo Szapar, CEO at Remote-how. Enterprises need to spot the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication. In asynchronous communication users don't expect immediate responses — that is how we try to communicate at Remote-how.
Sometimes it’s good to set up internal rules like: My coworkers will respond within 24-48 hours. Additionally, having employees from different places in the world, makes you want to learn how to work in different time zones. “For me, good team communication, it's not constant communication, it is a transparent process. At Remote-how we strive to achieve transparency between our employees, by eliminating private conversations to the absolute minimum,” he said.
Open communication channels help team members from different departments stay updated on what’s going on in different areas or search for some key information. Personally, effective communication is a transparent communication which makes all employees more productive.
Tim Christensen, CTO at SocialChorus, points out that in recent years, technologies like cloud computing, mobile communication and wireless access have become enterprise standards and employees are expecting and demanding easy connection and collaboration, especially as they work remotely.
The modern enterprise, he said, meets these demands often incorporating tools for collaboration in the digital workplace that allow employees to communicate quickly and seamlessly, whether they are behind a desk, in the field or on a factory floor.
While technologies promote connectivity and collaboration, they can also be inefficient and technology overload has become a very real problem for organizations. To compensate for outdated intranets or email systems, companies often pile on more tools to like Slack or Workplace by Facebook to expedite communications, but the result is a lot more distraction and confusion.
“This overload is part of the growing pains of digital transformation, and organizations can combat this by assessing the real needs of every employee — desk workers and frontline employees —– and choosing software that delivers information to employees when they need it and where they want it, rather than piling on software that overlaps and delivers more noise than productive communications,” said Christensen.
At this point, where there are several voices, possibly all carrying the same message, organizations really need to focus on getting the right message to the right employee, when and where they need it. By giving the workforce a front door to the digital tools and systems they need to do their work, you’re promoting collaboration and engagement rather asking your people to work in an environment of technology overload.