Workplace collaboration is associated with brainstorming and sharing ideas. It refers to two or more people coming together for a shared purpose through idea-sharing. From an HR- people Ops perspective it is ensuring that the employees have the necessary tools, processes, and climate they would need to communicate, innovate, resolve issues and execute ideas to get to the final result.
A collaborative environment is a safe and non-judgmental space that encourages people to speak their minds and listen to others. Each employee should feel that their perspective is valued across departments and seniority levels.
Different ideas, different perspectives, and probably different expertise of different people can surely work together to come up with a great solution, innovation, or answer to a problem.
The aim is to build an atmosphere where employees can share their ideas, feedback and even disagree or challenge the status quo. This leads to a more nuanced understanding of any project or issue alike and leads to better growth of the organization.
State of Collaboration (technology and teamwork) changes by COVID
The COVID crisis saw a shift in workplace dynamics. Work from Home with a flexible schedule eventually evolved and with it evolved the new ethics of workplace collaboration.
The workplace before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the world, had been primarily based on a 200-year-old coming together to do the work basis approach, which had evolved during the Industrial Revolution for manual work which had been the nature of work in that period. The nature of work eventually shifted to a more knowledge-driven approach with the advent of the internet. But the workplace did not change.
The Pandemic which hit the world brought a paradigm shift in the way we do things and most people were required to do Work from Home. The sudden shift in work and workplace saw increased productivity in the initial stages, but with time the flip side of the coin manifested itself. COVID had a terrible impact on internal as well as international collaborations, nearly 70% of these global as well as internal collaboration has come to a standstill with the impact of covid-19.
Research collaboration might be affected in the long run. COVID affected a lot of running projects that ultimately are no longer considered to be projects. Apart from this, there were a lot of problems that babbled out no sooner.
The collaboration part was one complication but problems that the companies faced were about their profit gaining employees.
- There were problems with managing work and home effectively. The family dynamics made it difficult for some employees- especially those who had kids to stay focused on work.
- Those who lived in shared accommodations faced difficulties with setting up their workstations.
- Accessing the new and developed technology was a big loophole for the work from home concept.
- The new employees didn’t get proper mentorship. They also lacked an opportunity for networking and expanding opportunities for themselves.
Now with offices re-opening after about two years employers need to make an open, collaborative relationship with the office and its employees. It is imperative to understand that getting back to the old restrictive practices or adopting the new extreme ones would both be equally harmful.
On one end snatching away the flexibility would lead to dissatisfaction and lesser productivity, on the other end extreme Work from Home would not be inclusive and could potentially leave some employees out. The way forward is to incorporate the changes of the COVID workspace into a Post COVID one while simultaneously responding to the changes that are still happening. In such a case workplace Collaboration could be useful.
Workplace collaboration is not a watertight concept with dos and don’ts. It can look like anything and is subjective as per the needs of the company/ business/ office. For some, a blended mode with only a part of the team attending the meeting in physical mode while others still work remotely could be effective Collaboration. For the others doing away with Company provided software and interfaces to use more accessible ones. The need for Collaboration is subjective to Companies and the solution therefore cannot be an objective one. Look for what works best for you.
State of Collaboration and teamwork today
In study after study conducted by various organizations to understand the behavior and expectations of employees, the results have shown that more than half of the full-time workers want to work from home at least sometime in a week. In such a case hybrid teams are emerging as a viable and feasible option. There has also been a shift in people’s perspectives and many people are seeking a collaborative environment that can help them learn and thrive in their careers.
However, online collaboration or technology saw the most significant shift. Real-time collaborative tools such as IM, EIM, Web conferencing and e- meetings saw a growth of about 30 percent CGAR with Zoom’s server crashing down. These are being adopted by the enterprises as well. However, these Real-time collaborative tools did not penetrate the entrepreneurial domain faster because of some hesitancy shown towards them.
This hesitancy emerged from a lack of education for some people who did not know how to use or were too scared of using these tools. Other reasons for this hesitancy are the complicated way these tools work and the perception that these tools are expensive.
Challenges and best practices
With a shifting approach towards work and workplace especially amid and Post COVID crises, workplace collaboration may have become a need of the hour, but just like its benefits, it has its limitations too. A collaborative environment may lead to better holistic growth, where everyone thrives, but it can also become difficult at times. It comes with its challenges.
The first challenge could be the implementation of such an environment in an organization that has many employees. It could become difficult for everyone to feel valued and respected. Different people have different natures and so creating a space like this might be a bit of hard work.
The next challenge for a Collaborative Workplace is negotiating through issues and reaching workable solutions. While this is a fundamental feature of a collaborative workplace, having discussions and working through everyone’s inputs makes it a slow process.
Hence, it takes time to conclude. This could be a challenge especially in those decisions which need to be made quickly. Ensuring transparency, conflict resolution, and deciding on an approach that works for all, since not everyone is on the same page are some other challenges. Online collaboration comes with its own set of challenges. Complex functionality of software and disparity in being technologically sound, to begin with, are two significant issues. The other issues include the use of unauthorized tools, cybersecurity risks, poor network issues, and differences in access to resources.
Some of the practices to improve workplace collaboration whilst simultaneously also dealing with addressing the challenges can be taking an approach that improves interpersonal communication.
- An improved interpersonal communication will simply develop a rapport between the employees where trust could be built. This will address most of the other issues.
- A better understanding of each other can lead to taking a better approach to conflict resolution, transparency would be ensured automatically if everyone feels trusted, then there are chances that employees don’t feel neglected, or disrespected, or if they do would take it up with the organization.
- Disparity in knowledge could be tackled with the creation of asking for help from those who are better at it.
Cybersecurity risks and poor internet connection issues cannot be eradicated, but ensuring that only authorized tools are being used and running a check on which tools are authorized and if they have a history of data breaches can help. The poor internet connection can be tackled with the services like fibernet Wifi in the workplace, but it would be limiting especially because the workplace itself is moving towards becoming a more flexible space
Implementation of Collaborative Policies
Some of the effective practices for Collaboration at the workplace can be inclusive meetings, innovative technology, team building activities, cross-functional projects, and using more transparent software. There can be many ways to implement these practices.
A few ways to ensure inclusive meetings could be having a detailed account of the objectives of the meeting being circulated to all of the participants. Meetings should feel inclusive for all the participants including those who are joining remotely. Employees or participants should feel heard, acknowledged, and appreciated for their inputs.
The agenda for a meeting could be made based on the inputs from everyone. Innovative technology and using transparent software go hand in hand. It could be a way to ensure innovation.
Other ways for using technological innovation are using simple and easy work software so that the employees don’t hesitate in coming forward and using it. Most of the tech giants are including a Collaborative feature in their new software, maybe switching to one of these, as per the requirement can also be helpful.
Team building activities include a lot of things from the smallest of gestures such as using video instead of keeping the camera turned off. It’s basic human nature to trust a face more than a voice. Other potential team-building activities could range from informal discussions to fun activities within and outside of the office. Intentionally creating cross-departmental teams could be helpful in team building as well.
With the Pandemic hitting the entire world, forcing economies to shut down, Workplace Collaboration emerged as the need of the hour. However, as the offices are reopening, it only seems plausible to incorporate the benefits of Workplace Collaboration to enhance productivity and create an atmosphere where everyone thrives.
Workplace Collaboration refers to two or more people coming together for a common goal through idea-sharing. There are many benefits of a collaborative workplace. Some of these include flexible working schedules, technological innovations, brainstorming new ideas and their execution, and creating an atmosphere where everyone thrives. Some effective practices which could help create a Collaborative environment are inclusive meetings where everyone feels their inputs are valued, technological innovation, cross-functional projects, and other team-building activities such as brainstorming sessions and informal discussions.
Collaborations not only on a shorter scale but on an international level too are a way to boost up the development of companies. Many companies are resuming their previously ended collaborations again, this hybrid way of working surely increases the intellect as well as a profit of the company.
Workplace collaborations may have their benefits, but inculcating Collaborative ethics could be challenging sometimes, especially considering that an organization has many people who are all different. This could lead to issues such as the feeling of a lack of communication, ensuring transparency, and conflict resolution. It can also delay making decisions sometimes.
Collaborations can be offline and online. The online collaboration saw a sudden drastic manifold increase in their use and subsequent acceptance and adoption at a large scale into the entrepreneurial domain.
Real-time collaborative tools can be complicated to use, especially for those who are not technologically sound. There is a general perception that these are expensive as well. This led to some hesitation in their use and hence took them so long to be adopted into the entrepreneurial domain.
Other issues with online collaboration remained that of cyber security risks and poor internet connections.
A collaborative environment has become necessary with a workforce that also strives for personal growth from their organization. The COVID crisis has developed some new workspace ethics and with the offices reopening, a hybrid workplace that is more flexible is the way forward.
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Also Read: Organizational Culture Inventory
Also Read: Organizational Culture Inventory