For the benefit of the wider community, employees where possible are working from home to combat the threat posed by COVID-19. However, having a distributed workforce requires forethought on how employees can seamlessly communicate with each other, regardless of their location. The particular challenges posed by COVID-19 mean that new groups of employees are now being asked to work from home who are having to adjust to entirely new ways of working.
Using collaboration tools to improve productivity
While tools such as Slack, Trello, Zoom and Office 365 improve worker productivity by providing seamless collaboration, they also can encourage an always-on nature for the workers who use them. And as adoption of these tools’ increases, care needs to be taken to avoid information overload and burnout.
When tools are implemented properly, companies are breaking down barriers and opening up lines of communication across teams and departments. Collaboration tools give modern workers the ability to share files, audio and video conversations, making the virtual office a reality. Teams can meet on one channel, regardless of their physical location, to share and receive information. And, by using dedicated channels for a specific purpose such as discussing project issues, service outages, new product features, etc., conversations can stay focused on the topic at hand for faster resolution. In addition, tailoring collaboration tools using integrations and automation capabilities enable teams to remain on track and action insights in near real time.
Slack’s instant messaging capabilities help teams focus their discussions around resolving issues or progressing to the next stage of a project. For example, if your business uses a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce, you can automatically spin up a discussion channel when you onboard new customers.
The future of collaboration tools
In the future, we can expect to see technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and machine learning (ML) increase the effectiveness of collaboration tools - making them faster to adopt and more intuitive to use. The capabilities of workplace collaboration tools will evolve, leveraging team insights and bringing people together for more focused, productive, and powerful interactions.
Collaboration tools will become more personalised in the future, inviting a higher level of engagement on these platforms. AI will allow collaboration bots to become more sophisticated, allowing problems to be automatically solved in a conversational style. Visual collaboration tools will also evolve to streamline workflows and make meetings more immersive and productive. As remote work becomes more common, visual collaboration tools will be essential to keep remote workforces engaged.
Measuring collaboration success
Investing in practical training and onboarding practices is crucial to ensure teams get the most value from collaboration tools. Implementing these tools in a thoughtful and customised way will enable employees to focus on the job in hand.
To measure the success of your collaboration tools, you’ll need to establish a mix of quantitative and qualitative objectives. For example, are your teams accomplishing work more efficiently? Take, for instance, teams that are using Jira Service Desk and Slack – has there been a noticeable decrease in the time to resolve a customer query? Are teams consistently meeting service level agreements? Is the tool enhancing team activities, or is it getting in the way and hindering productivity?
In addition to productivity measures, measuring employee satisfaction is also crucial. Do your employees believe the tools are helping them, or are they contributing to information overload? Do your remote workers feel like they are fully part of your team? Are the tools helping them reach their development or professional goals? Can teams access everything they need from within the tool, or are there extra steps slowing things down?
With the nature of work changing even more and becoming more flexible, we will continue to see collaboration tools playing a critical role in helping remote teams connect with others, access information in real time and communicate with ease, regardless of time zone or physical location.