We all know that the lines of doing business have been well and truly redrawn over the past couple of years. The impact of the COVID-19, and the measures taken around the world to limit its potential spread in business environments, has been hugely challenging for virtually every business. But through initiative, creativity and perseverance, the vast majority have been able to weather the worst of the storm.
However, some of the changes that had to be made to get through the pandemic will be with us for some time to come: in particular, the ways in which employees communicate and collaborate with each other. Deprived of face-to-face contact for extended periods of time, employees have been reliant on video conferencing tools and collaboration apps to keep in touch with co-workers. But the use of many of these have been retained, and are having an influence on how offices operate day-to-day as more flexible working models become the norm.
Below, we’ll look at five ways that collaboration has been fundamentally altered by the pandemic, and what this means for businesses trying to ensure their offices remain relevant to the future of work:
1. Video collaboration
Use of video collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom has become much more accepted and commonplace within businesses. Instead of being treated as a ‘second choice’ when employees are unable to meet someone face-to-face, they are increasingly being seen as a go-to option for every type of collaboration, however practical an in-person conversation might be.
2. Flexible working models
With more people working in different places and at different times, it has become more difficult for employees to keep track of who is working where and when, and how to keep in touch with them. Applications and software have proven immensely useful in helping keep employees connected, and inform them of the working arrangements of co-workers they need to contact.
3. New ways for organic communication
Many employees, and younger and less experienced ones in particular, have suffered from losing the ad-hoc chats that take place in an office day-to-day. In order to better support these organic conversations, which can be so beneficial for an employee’s development, many businesses have taken steps to bring people together virtually through more technology integrations.
4. Planning ahead for office work
Working remotely has removed any opportunity to simply grab a co-worker for a meeting without notice. All collaboration has now had to be planned in advance, and has had to fit into the schedules of everyone involved. As full remote work has transitioned into flexible working, these levels of planning have been retained.
Having to be more organized
All of the above points are ways in which collaboration has become a much more organized and formal activity. The informality and spontaneity of communication has been removed, or has at least been heavily diluted, and workforces as a whole are now expected to arrange all of their work activity and collaboration in advance, wherever they’re working.
Summary: what does this mean for businesses and offices?
This shift in how employees collaborate has knock-on implications for businesses, especially in how they reshape their offices to better suit more flexible ways of working and communicating, and how they can increasingly deliver the excellent experiences employees are looking for. While every business will have different priorities, three key considerations stand out:
- Workspace design: new collaboration demands will necessitate changes to workplace design, especially under a shared workspace model. Bookable open-plan desk spaces so teams can work together, and a wide range of different workspaces and meeting rooms, are a must.
- Blending physical and digital: combinations of people working from the office and from home will still need to come together in meetings, and so meeting rooms must have video conferencing capability. If this isn’t installed permanently, meeting organizers should be able to book the required hardware to be provided for specific meetings.
- Technology enabling flexible work: applications and software are vital in bringing all the elements of flexible work and collaboration together. As well as video conferencing and collaboration tools, workspace management solutions are key to ensuring employees can book the right spaces at the right times for effective office work and team-working.