Blog

7 April 2020

Workplace collaboration tools: How effective are they?

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Thanks to mobile technology, cloud sharing and instant messaging platforms, it has never been easier to collaborate.

This is good news for us when considering remote working, but how effective are the tools at our disposal, and what can organisations do to improve collaboration among their remote teams?

Before we answer these questions, let’s look at why collaboration matters now more than ever.

Collaboration: more than just a buzzword

When people collaborate, they combine and share their knowledge, skills, ideas and expertise, allowing them to solve problems more efficiently and effectively.

In companies that embrace and promote a culture of collaboration, people have access to other people; instead of being limited to their own expertise, or that of their team, the combined expertise of their entire workforce becomes a resource that they can tap into. Silos are broken down, and information flows freely throughout the organisation.

Collaboration also allows employees to learn from one another. By working alongside people from different teams and departments, you gain new insights and skills, and learn to approach problems from different angles. The knowledge of more experienced employees filters down to those less experienced.

Conversely, a lack of collaboration stifles progress. In many companies, particularly larger, well-established ones, the organisational structure can strangle information flow. People operate in predetermined teams, and often communicate only with those in physical proximity to themselves.

So two things are clear: collaboration is essential to business success, and it has never been easier to connect, communicate, and share ideas. But it is not as simple as that.

Are collaboration tools a help or a hindrance?

The purpose of technology is to make our lives easier, and for the most part it does – just look at the number of processes that a smartphone can perform, for example. But on the flipside, you could also argue that smartphones overcomplicate our lives, providing a source of constant distraction and noise.

Similarly, technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to communication. Yes, it has never been easier for us to connect with others, but at the same time we are becoming more closed off and isolated.

The same can be said for technology in the workplace. The sheer number of applications and platforms available has created a cacophony of distractions, where multiple technologies, apps and platforms compete for our attention. In some cases, the very tools designed to aid collaboration could be inhibiting our ability to connect on a human level.

Take instant messaging platforms like Slack, for example. On one hand, they are the perfect solution for connecting people across teams and locations. The instant nature of the interaction allows for a more informal, conversational back-and-forth exchange rather than email. They allow employees to share information and receive rapid replies to questions, often replacing the need for scheduled meetings. And what’s more, they bring an element of fun to the workplace – employees get to bond with each in a way that doesn’t happen in more traditional communication methods.  

On the other hand, however, instant messaging can become a hindrance to productivity. Employees receive a constant flow of messages, most of which don’t concern them, complete with banter, giffs and emojis. With each new ‘ping’ of a Slack message, employees’ attention is diverted away from their real work.

What’s more, instant messaging could be responsible for a downturn in face-to-face communication – how many times have you sent a Slack message to a colleague sitting within earshot? When instant messaging is preferred to actual conversation, do we have a problem?

Beyond discussions about their effectiveness, it’s clear that right now workplace collaboration tools are a necessity. They help everyone stay in touch and aligned with goals. On top of that, they provide remote teams with a sense of togetherness, and allow information to flow freely between individuals regardless of their location. We can’t live without them, so we need to decide what we use and how.

Collaboration first

At People First, we’ve created a software platform jam packed with social and collaboration tools, replacing the need for multiple different systems. This allows you to take a unified and simplified approach to communication and collaboration, with everything in one place.

From social profiles and social feeds to our transparent goal system, People First is designed to make it easier than ever before for people to connect, communicate and collaborate, no matter where they are based. This helps break down organisational silos and ensures that every employee feels part of a strong workplace community, no matter where they are based.

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards is a Content Writer at MHR

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