In these changing times, individuals, businesses, and the world at large have redefined work, leveraging different platforms to embrace collaboration, regardless of geographical boundaries.
We no longer have to meet physically to get work done. We live in a virtual age where collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams have made it easier to connect and get the most out of our time at work.
The world has moved from operating completely remotely, as we saw during the pandemic, to more of a hybrid work style. This also applies to learning and development, as we do not need to show up physically for trainings and professional events. The world at large is rapidly embracing the virtual engagements.
Virtual collaboration involves working together towards a unified goal using technology as the primary means of cooperation to accomplish tasks. For emphasis, virtual collaboration is not just a phase. Rather, it is a trend that is here to stay, considering the future of work and how well these tools helped organisations survive the disruptions of the past months.
For effective virtual collaboration to take place in teams and organisations, we will need to embrace collaborative tools more than ever before, and maintain every form of team bonding activity virtually. How can organisations further strengthen virtual work?
There is a dire need for proper training of every staff on how to utilise the collaborative tools for effective delivery of tasks. Team members must familiarise themselves with the tools to remain productive and accountable despite varying geographical locations.
Asides from the traditional communication methods like emails, the use of video conferencing tools, instant messaging platforms and project management software, among others, are highly encouraged. These platforms not only help to foster team bonding; they are also suitable for real time conversations, quick updates, and asking questions. Video conferencing could help promote collaboration and a deeper sense of connection during meetings. They also serve as checks and balances to curb distractions and absenteeism. Project management software allow teams to collaborate on projects while having a clear view of pending tasks, officers responsible for those tasks, the set deadlines, and other important details.
To keep team members together and deeply connected, there should be virtual parties, games and other team bonding activities to replace the usual TGIFs and other activities that were organised when offices operated at full capacity. The new hybrid working model should not be an excuse to stop such activities completely.
Considering the increased use of virtual collaborative tools in many organisations, service providers are refining their solutions and features to improve the user experience. In a research by Jared Spatero, the Vice President Microsoft 365, he highlighted that the last few months have been spent learning and finding out how their customers put the tool to use. He also described how much they are working towards designing technology to help their customers today and in the future. They have been able to make virtual interactions more natural, engaging and above all, human.
Virtual collaboration is more mentally challenging than in-person collaboration. A research carried out by Microsoft states that a new feature called the “together mode” has been added on Microsoft Teams to enable members feel more connected. It is a new meeting experience that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like one is sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class. Hence, it is easy to focus on people’s gestures, faces, and body language, making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interactions. This makes the entire meeting experience more fun and interesting.
We no longer have excuses not to collaborate effectively as teams in organisations. There is a dire need to upskill ourselves, become familiar with the features, and not leave out “EMPATHY” as we relate and work together in teams, embracing the new normal which has come to stay.
This change is culture driven. At pcl., we have a digital culture service which is designed to help organisations maximise technology, ingrain it into their work culture, and operate effectively.