The importance of online team collaboration came to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic. As millions of workers were forced to pivot from office working to being remotely based, so this trend has only accelerated.
That’s why it is vital for employers to encourage greater teamwork among staff, some of whom may be operating in different locations or even time zones. They can achieve this through online collaboration, enabling employees to work on the same project simultaneously, wherever they are.
The fact is that effective online collaboration boosts employee engagement, productivity, efficiency and, most importantly, company results. All of these outcomes are obtainable if they have the right tools that, with 39% of business leaders concurring that implementing digital collaboration platforms is fundamental to making remote working sustainable, according to a Deloitte study.
Effective online collaboration depends on three main factors: having a clearly defined communications strategy, fostering the right company culture and maximising the use of technology. If all are successfully executed at the same time, workers’ output will rise exponentially.
Having the right platforms in place is key to bringing in an effective communications strategy. That requires employing both the traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings, phones and emails, but also new technology like video conferencing and messaging apps.
With the right tools, regular team meetings can be scheduled to discuss projects, agree and make decisions, and receive progress reports, while also checking up on employees’ wellbeing and productivity. This is paramount, particularly when people are working remotely, to ensure that everyone is aligned to the same goals.
It’s all about making sure that everyone has buy-in. That’s evidenced in a McKinsey study, which found workers who feel more included in workplace communication are almost five times more likely to report increased productivity.
Clear company culture
Having a strong company culture is also important as it ensures that staff share the same values, targets, attitudes and practices. Backing this up is research by Deloitte, who found that 94% of executives say having a distinct corporate identity is key to a firm’s success.
Another key component to establishing a positive company culture is getting employees onside, starting with recruitment and retention. When they are invested in the business, that means they have greater job satisfaction, and, thus, better collaboration, performance, loyalty and wellbeing.
Echoing that, 67% of respondents to a PwC survey said a company’s culture was more important than its strategy or operations. Additionally, 72% of senior leaders said that it enables successful change initiatives to happen too.
Above all, though, technology is the key enabler of online collaboration. Due to the latest advances, there are now many tools available that can make remote team working easier and more effective.
Chief among them is online workspaces. These virtual environments enable teams to collaborate, communicate and manage all their projects in one place.
Adoption of this new technology has been speedy too, with 79% of workers now using digital collaboration tools, up 44% from when the pandemic began, according to Gartner. That trend looks set to continue with 48% of chief information officers predicting that more than half their budget will be spent on enabling these technology investments to reach their full potential, according to Cisco.
All of this technology can be brought together under the cloud. This global network of servers, which hosts multiple databases and software, enables teams to access and work on the same files and applications, regardless of their location.
Challenges of online collaboration
The benefits afforded by online collaboration are multiple, but there are also many challenges. These include the upfront investment cost, technology issues and resistance to change by workers.
Everyone is watching their budgets right now, but companies must regard online collaboration as a future investment. Also, by providing greater autonomy over how they work together online enables staff to buy into the new culture.
As companies continue to move towards this new way of working, employers need to have the right systems and practices in place for effective online team collaboration. In their absence, they risk getting left behind in this highly competitive marketplace for talent.
Wayne Pope, Founder and CTO of award-winning Glasscubes, which specialises in enabling companies to collaborate with people inside or outside their organisation, using a rich set of tools from client portals, online workspaces, intranets and information gathering. Glasscubes helps well over 50,000 users in more than 100 countries to maximise their workforce’s potential through an online secure system.