Online collaboration tools have been a lifeline for businesses over the past 12 months. From real time communication tools to video calling and task management, online collaboration has enabled knowledge workers the world over to continue their day-to-day job from home during the pandemic.
As we come out of the strictest of lockdown measures, businesses will be considering their next move. With the exception of a few organisations – who seem intent on getting everyone back into the office – most businesses will be adopting a more flexible approach by enabling a hybrid working arrangement. Indeed, 73% of UK knowledge workers would prefer to split their time between home and the office, according to our Remote Work in the UK Report.
In order for hybrid teams to work effectively, organisations must continue to invest in the online collaboration tools that make it happen.
Before we explain why, let’s first delve into the nuts and bolts of online digital collaboration:
What is online collaboration?
At first glance, online collaboration does what it says on the tin; a team works together towards a common goal, but does so in the digital workplace rather than face-to-face in an office.
But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that effective online collaboration requires a slight shift in processes and culture. Simply providing staff with access to project management tools and Google Drive, then expecting them to start magically collaborating online, isn’t going to cut it.
For example, team collaboration tools must be intuitive to use so that staff feel as comfortable working over video conferencing or cloud based intranets as they do in person. Whilst the occasional technical issue during audio and video calls are part and parcel of modern working, if your collaboration features are fundamentally flawed and difficult to use, then these will hinder productivity.
Team management and dynamics are also important to ensuring your online collaboration thrives. People work and communicate in different ways, so it’s vital that your collaborative platform – as well as your internal company culture – provides staff with the tools and support they need to produce their best work.
What are the benefits of online collaboration tools?
Staff can easily share files
Thanks to online collaboration tools such as document management software, the days when a team member has to visit the office to get a physical copy of the files they need are long gone.
Instead, online collaboration software provides teams with a single space for storing and sharing company files.
This is vital for enabling hybrid teams to collaborate online, because they’ll have instant access to the latest version of any document, regardless of their working location. Not only does this save your teams’ time from searching for files, it also removes any barriers to effective collaboration by improving the visibility of your company data.
Online collaboration tools enable project management from afar
Project management software allows your hybrid teams to plan projects, delegate tasks, and communicate within one central platform, without ever having to be in the same room. Tools like this have been instrumental to enabling collaboration during the pandemic, and it will serve your organisation well in the future too.
For instance, online project dashboards allow hybrid teams to keep track of project progress and see who’s working on what, so that staff can simply concentrate on the task at hand rather than worry about sending email chasers.
Online project management tools also help team leaders manage projects effectively by providing them with complete oversight into project status, deliverables, and team workloads. As a bonus, the software will automatically flag up if tasks are nearing a deadline, helping teams meet their project goals on time and within budget.
Communication tools encourage team connections
Another slice of the online collaboration pie is communication tools, such as corporate social media and collaboration spaces. These are dedicated apps that are inspired by the familiar social networking features your teams use everyday, and allow remote and office-based staff alike to communicate online.
Communication tools are important for two primary reasons:
- They encourage teams to innovate, share ideas, and post targeted updates to different channels.
- They create opportunities for team bonding and strengthen employee relationships.
The latter point should not be underestimated, especially when you’re looking to improve online collaboration between your hybrid teams. Indeed, communication tools enable those ”watercooler moments” – which occur organically within a traditional office setting – to take place within a virtual environment.
Creating opportunities for spontaneous innovation and chit-chat will strengthen your cross-team relationships, so incorporating communication software into your online collaboration toolkit is a must.