Why employee collaboration is so important in the age of hybrid working


01 Nov, 2021

It's ironic that in the age of communication, so many people claim to feel disconnected. At the start of the first lockdown in the UK, when the majority of the country's working population was forced to stay at home, 46% of remote workers admitted experiencing feelings of isolation. Despite having  technologies like Slack, Zoom and Google Meets at our fingertips, nothing could quite replace face-to-face interaction, a good level of which can reportedly make companies 25% more productive

The future of work is hybrid, that much is evident. But it's important that employers strike the right balance to get the best from both remote and in-person work. Design trends are already suggesting that the office will change to reflect new working styles - a recent Savills survey suggested that offices will be increasingly relied on for collaborative activities and brainstorms, while focussed work will be done independently (either at home or in dedicated workspaces). But the office isn't just a place for work - it's also about socialisation and boosting personal relationships.

How important is employee collaboration?

Short answer, very. If you want to create a healthy company culture, this should be as much focussed on actual output as it is employee experience. We've already written on the importance of a happy workforce (and how cheerier staff are likely to be more productive and loyal), but encouraging levels of socialisation is a key part of forging this. There are numerous qualitative benefits, from fostering a sense of community to increasing trust between colleagues and employers. But there are also quantitative bonuses.

A 2021 study by Forrester Consulting revealed that improving collaboration leads to a 63% increase in profitability, 43% enhanced innovation, and a 40% boost in employee experience. The same survey also found that 82% of decision-makers agree that investing in a cohesive collaboration solution helps their organizations stay competitive and maintain their industry leadership. But in terms of the practicalities, over half recognised the need for better collaborative technology support.

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What are the current problems?

Back in the days before the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, fostering collaboration would have been as simple as calling a group meeting or arranging a post-work social down the pub. But as employee priorities have changed post-pandemic, the future of work looks set to stay distributed, with the majority of companies taking a hybrid approach that will allow staff to work where (and sometimes when) they want. 

All this is well and good for providing flexibility; but HR departments are having to step up morale boosting efforts in order to compensate for waning office face time. So what are the current key problems standing in the way of an adequately socialised staff?

Technology troubles

Rather than a blanket lack of technology, this problem lies more in the confusion of how to apply collaborative tech effectively. At the start of the pandemic, many companies made the mistake of overusing video meeting technology, something that has even led Healthline to officially document 'Zoom fatigue' as an informal burnout-style diagnosis.

Now, we're more used to alternative forms of communication like chatting softwares, workflow tools and virtual cafes that take some of the pressure off constant video interaction. But simply having the tech there isn't enough.

New working trends

While employee choice should be at the very core of all hybrid working policies, employers should also look into wider working trends when setting out their company policies. For example, recent data from NearU showed that 40% of employees were working from an office space on Thursdays, compared to less than 10% on a Monday. 

Failing to take such trends into account could mean a large portion of your workforce missing out on all important in-person face time, and thus feeling more isolated.

How can companies solve these problems?

We hope by now it's clear that solving your collaboration crisis should be high on your company's list of priorities. Doing so could help you tap into increased productivity and loyalty from your staff. But exactly how should you go about this?

Be consistent

Whatever tools you choose to implement, ensure they're consistent across the board regardless of whether employees are working together in-person or remotely. Here at NearU, we use a mixture of Slack (for every day communications via message and video), Notion (as a central storage system), as well as Outlook (for external communications and scheduling). 

Of course, we naturally supplement this with other tech but these core systems always remain a constant, meaning our workforce can easily access each other and any relevant materials at the click of a mouse, no matter where they are.

Encourage non-work chatter

While it might be harder to socialise with a distributed team, it's not impossible. Working increasingly remotely means workers miss out on those classic water cooler moments where you might bump into someone from a different department or one of your superiors and chat about what either of you got up to at the weekend. 
Engineering 'virtual water coolers', whether that be through one-to-one catch ups or team-wide socials dedicated to non-work-related natter could help boost socialisation. We even have a whole podcast based on this concept which you should definitely give a listen if you haven't already.

Find colleagues with NearU

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Arranging to see distributed colleagues in person shouldn't be hard - that's why we've made it as easy as logging onto our app. As we begin to see working trends change, more people are forgoing the office on Mondays and Fridays while the  mid-week seems to be the most popular time to head out. This has been linked to a variety of reasons, but most likely it's to do with people wanting to make the most of increased face time with colleagues and superiors.

NearU's brand new  feature, 'Who's NearU', will allow users to see where their co-workers are and when in real-time, making it easier than ever to boost casual employee collaboration. You can add friends and colleagues to your network just like you'd do on social media.

Not familiar with us? NearU, or the AirBNB for workspaces as we like to think of it, has launched an app that connects employees to flexible desks and meeting rooms, to give your staff the option to work-near-home. Your employees are tired of traditional centralised working, and the commute is taking an average 39 days out of their year - they're frustrated and unhappy, which leaves employers worried about staff retention.

But it doesn't have to be this way, thanks to NearU. So let us help you and your staff, by putting flexible working at your fingertips. Book a demo with our sales team here, or download our app from the App Store or Google Play to see what all the fuss is about.