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ABC’s of Collaborating In The Next Normal
Is collaboration alive and well in our next normal? Or is our shift to remote working having a negative impact on collaboration?
Is collaboration alive and well in our next normal? Or, is our shift to remote working having a negative impact on collaboration?
A recent Gensler study reported in Fortune, found that working at home has been rough on collaboration. Researchers found that prior to the pandemic, U.S. workers spent an average of 43% of their time collaborating- in person or virtually. However for those working entirely remotely in 2020, the number fell to 27%.
As a design and architecture firm, Gensler is studying the impact of remote working on collaboration. Their research confirms that top performing companies and teams spend 45%, roughly equal time, in collaboration and individual work.
As you can imagine, for teams working entirely remotely, they may not get even close to these numbers.
Interestingly, although many professionals have been working remotely for over a year, many people continue to feel that their jobs rely on in-person collaboration.
It’s not an easy situation.
This may explain why it’s challenging to infuse collaboration into a workforce that’s functioning entirely remotely.
Does this sound like what you’ve been noticing?
If so, the collaboration question rises to the top of the priorities.
What Are The ABCs of Collaboration?
Clearly, the answers to this will vary, depending on your workplace, culture, and industry. While we’d love to explore these aspects with you in a person conversation, let’s do it right now. Since we aren’t sitting in a virtual or in-person meeting, please take some time to consider how this may help you, your team, and your organization.
A = Agility
Let’s start with A, for agility.
Agility is a key quality for collaboration. Especially, as we manage our evolving work situations, we need to cultivate agility.
This is not the easiest thing to do. If you’re used to doing things in a certain way, at a certain time, in a certain order… agility can seem like a huge challenge.
Agility is the ability to move in multiple directions – with speed.
That’s the opposite of plodding along doing the same thing in the same way. To be able to learn how to change direction, and change speed rapidly takes practice. The better you are, the more effective you’ll be in responding to change.
When learning agility, it helps to break things down into small steps. When you approach agility in tiny steps, it’s easier to see that each part of our workflow has some wiggle room.
Wiggle room is a fun way to learn about and practice agility.
Here are a few ideas for embracing this essential quality at work.
Agility: New Methods
Experiment with new methods for working. This can be working at home, working in the office, doing a project solo, and balancing workflow with partner.
As you try out different workflows, keep records. Note what you learn, discover, and change. You may find some things you can’t stand – and other things you prefer.
Agility: New Tools
If you’ve been relying on the same-old tools to introduce prospects to potential resources, you may be missing out. You could save energy, time, and headaches by making warm introductions with a networking system. A new tool can make everything in your sales workflow go faster.
Agility: New Timing
Check out different times of the day to do distinct tasks. If you’re an early bird, you might find your highest level of productivity is 5 am. If you’re more of a night owl, you may do your most creative thinking in the midnight hours.
Mix things up a bit. Set the alarm and experiment with an agile approach to your workday.
B = Balance
Let’s continue with B, for balance – which plays a key role in collaboration.
In many companies, the big word is “hybrid.” Employees are experimenting with hybrid solutions. A hybrid is just how it sounds: a mix of at-home days and in-office days. This can help employees have the freedom to design their best work environment. They can make personal decisions to match their preferences, workflow, and team interactions.
Balance: Informal and Formal
When working in a physical office, there’s often a great deal of formal and informal interaction. A colleague pops into your office for a quick consult. A team leader jumps to the whiteboard, sketches a business model, and gets instant feedback. A leader and a staff member chat about strategies, over a cup of coffee or tea in the break room.
How can you achieve this kind of formal-informal conversation when working virtually or in a hybrid setting?
It’s not quite as simple. Yet it is possible. Look for opportunities such as informal conversation before and after more formal presentations. Make it a habit to send an email, text, or quick Zoom call with colleagues. Make informal and formal meet-ups a priority and you’ll create more opportunities to do this with your teammates.
Balance: Solo and Group
Invite people to step in for a one-on-one conversation. You can set up office hours or have an open-door policy.
Many employees find it easier to speak openly, in an informal, one-on-one setting. Keep exploring how you can encourage people to talk with you, with each other, and cross-functionally to keep ideas flowing.
C = Collaborate
Let’s look at the C, for Collaborate
Collaborate across the boundaries that we all have been experiencing.
Collaborate: Beyond Work
These can be in-person sports, bar night, or picnics. If safety and health policies allow, meet up face-to face. Meeting up after work is a great way to build personal connections, and grow rapport with your team.
Collaborate: Beyond Onsite Work
Academic researchers at eWorkLife encourage team members to meet virtually after work. The options are really only limited by your creativity. Many people find that they can connect with peers virtually. Whether this is to play video games, share a drink, or catch up informally, meeting after hours, strengthens connections.
Collaborate: Beyond Projects
Make time to connect with your peers before and after work projects. Share news of your personal life, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In a short time, you’ll build a stronger bond of rapport and trust with co-workers. Many people find that when they feel a personal connection with a co-worker, they are more likely to reach out for feedback, ideas, and support in the future.
Exploring ways to build your skills in collaboration is essential in helping your company be successful in the new normal. With the ABC’s, you can start collaborating today.
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