As we move into the next decade, technology continues to evolve at warp speed, with many developments that have the power to shape workplace transformation over the next 12 months. With so many options available designed to foster, cultivate, and support collaboration, now’s the perfect time to evaluate the collaboration strategies your company uses — and whether those strategies can keep pace or might need some adjusting.

Distributed Workforce

Significant technological advances — and the depth and breadth of equipment that enables video conferencing and remote meetings — have resulted in significant growth in a telecommuting workforce. In fact, over 4.7 million employees work remotely; however, while the number of U.S. employers offering flexible workspace has grown 40% since 2014, only about 7% actually offer the option to a majority of their employees.

While it’s true that a distributed workforce can hamper collaboration, companies are employing a variety of strategies to make it work. Some companies utilize multimedia conferencing; other companies offer a hybrid schedule that allows their employees to work from home several days a week while coming into the office on other days. Other companies with far-flung staff schedule retreats that enable their personnel to meet and interact on a more personal level. These five team communication strategies facilitate effective online collaboration.

Meetings & Video-Centric Collaboration

As the millennial workforce grows, one report shows that 82% of respondents indicated that workplace technology influences their job choice. Because today’s incoming workforce is accustomed to collaborative, relationship-based working and expects flexibility within their work environments — including options to work remotely — state-of-the-art collaboration and communication platforms, especially those that enable more seamless meetings, have become critical.

A growing trend in enterprise communication includes incorporating video into communications. More than 88% of C-level decision makers say video increases effectiveness, reduces meeting times, accelerates decision-making, and improves productivity. Vendors like Zoom offer a single platform that supports this video-centric approach.

Corporate Social Networking

The average person spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social messaging and networking platforms. About 30% of Millennials and Gen Xers use instant messaging — like Slack or Facebook’s Workplace — at work; only about 12% of baby boomers say they are comfortable with that technology, because they lack the same familiarity with it.

However, social collaboration tools like Wrike, Zoho Projects, Jive, Monday.com, and HipChat can enhance and support project management, file sharing, video and phone communication. These user-friendly software programs make it easier to transfer knowledge, improve communication among teams, and cultivate a positive work culture.

Cloud-Based Communication

Many companies are making the switch from conference calling services to cloud-based communications software. Conference calling services — like Vast Conference, FreeConferenceCall.com, RingCentral, and WebEx — help companies to connect with people located world-wide. But some businesses are switching to cloud-based communication, recognizing that many on-premise collaboration tools might not offer the flexibility and operational agility that they need. These collaborative software packages, like Monday.com, Wrike, Smartsheet, and Slack, enable remote working employees to collaborate quickly, streamline task coordination and information sharing, and increase overall efficiency.

Communications software, like RingCentral, provides enterprise-grade communication functions and can work in any software environment because it integrates with popular applications like Salesforce, Dropbox, Google, and Zendesk. A 2019 study conducted by Synergy Research Group predicted that the collaboration market of apps and software would grow 9% in 2019 to generate over $45 billion in revenues.

Smart Meeting Rooms & Huddle Rooms

Smart meeting rooms can include virtual assistants, interactive whiteboards, intelligent scheduling, and 360-degree video cameras, each of which promotes and supports collaboration. The Internet of Things (IoT) enables users to connect technology with the rest of the company’s systems, which also reduces latency.

Plus, advanced tech like automated note-taking helps companies remain competitive within the fast-paced business landscape. Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) — even with their kinks and glitches — let people have more immersive online experiences. Whether it’s an architect or interior designer using a 3D mockup to show clients their designs or make modifications — or engineers using 3D imaging to analyze their projects — this game-changing technology will, experts predict, reinforce collaborations.

Starting in the 1950s, workplaces trended toward creating open-office floor plans thinking these layouts would encourage and promote interaction among employees. A 2019 workplace survey, however, found that 52% of polled workers said open workspace created distractions and 40% of respondents indicated that their workspace was too open.

More recent modifications to the open floor plan concept have included adding huddle spaces to create a combination of public and private spaces. When equipped with A/V equipment that facilitates video meetings, huddle rooms provide a place to conference with people in the office as well as those located remotely. These huddle rooms — which now number about 32.4 million globally — will support the evolution of collaboration. A low cost solution that doesn’t take up too much space, they provide places for private discussions, more focused meetings, and brainstorming sessions.

AI and Machine Learning

Companies that use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and even robotics benefit from automating routine tasks associated with collaboration. Whether it’s voice assistants, predictive filtering systems, or CoBots and chatbots that help optimize processes, each of these tools enables teams to focus on brainstorming and development, not back-office tasks.

Security & Management

Some experts would argue that collaboration security isn’t really about the security at all but about managing the risk. Because users (rather than IT admins) can add guests or share data with anyone who has an internet connection, collaboration applications have the potential to introduce security risks.

The paradox is real: the more platforms companies use for collaboration, the greater the possibility for data security breaches. Experts recommend using technology that includes a risk-mitigation program after evaluating a company’s collaboration and risk levels of data that results from collaboration. Establishing governance policies and developing and implementing a framework for measurement — and to educate users — will help companies create a balance between collaboration, data sharing, data protection, and privacy.

Enhancing Your Business Processes

Whether you’re exploring ways to evolve your company’s collaborative strategies, improve business processes, or upgrade the technology on which your company depends, the members of CREA United can help. Connect with Priority One or Teknalysis Corp., two IT Tech companies that design, implement, and administer infrastructures and integrated managed IT services. Visit their websites to learn more.