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The irreplaceable nature of in-person communication and collaboration

April 1, 2019

Peter Quinlan   

Vice President, Unified Communications and Collaboration Product Management

We are firmly in an age where people have access to infinite amounts of data-enabled insights and applications, designed to make everything we do in our professional and personal lives easier, and often faster. With flexible working policies, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and virtual collaboration environments, we are able to do our work anywhere, anytime.

Business collaboration platforms have emerged as the latest innovation in teamwork. They allow us to send messages, have meetings and share content at the drop of a hat, and they can help make collaboration more seamless between globally dispersed teams.

However, while people have become more efficient in this digital age, businesses also need to be mindful of how communication and collaboration could be negatively impacted by technology.

In a scenario that is likely familiar to us all, we now often email the person sitting a few desks away from us instead of walking over to speak to them. We are actively cutting out in-person communication to save us a few brief minutes – or to have a ‘trail’ of who said what and when. This trend, in the long run, could actually hinder our ability to work together effectively as people and teams.

There’s no I in team

Many businesses, like ours, have embraced the latest technologies that allow people to work remotely and balance the demands at work with those at home. This flexibility can be hugely beneficial – helping to attract and retain the right talent and bring global teams closer together. Yet, it must be accompanied by a concerted effort to foster a culture of teamwork and alignment to the organisation’s values in the real world as well as virtual.

If employees based in the same city don’t bother communicating and spending time with each other face to face, they risk distancing themselves from one another. They may no longer see themselves as a part of that team. This raises the risk of diminished commitment to the organisation’s goals, and weakened alignment across the company, as employees are no longer grounded in a shared environment that feeds their collective motivation.

Unifying teamwork

While it’s not always possible for everyone to sit together around the table in one room, there are a number of solutions that can facilitate communication and collaboration when in-person teamwork is not possible.  And, by combining voice, video, chat, and shared workspaces, with a high quality of service, today’s collaboration technology can actually foster alignment.

To enable globally dispersed teams to work more effectively together, we have joined forces with Poly – known until very recently as Plantronics-Polycom. Together we now offer the first ever end-to-end service for Microsoft Teams underpinned by the reliability and seamlessness of Direct Routing connectivity. With video and audio endpoints worldwide, businesses are able to simplify technology-enabled collaboration with this fully integrated service and build that crucial sense of ‘one team’ even when employees might be thousands of miles apart.  We also help organisations and employees adapt their working styles and really get the most out of new business collaboration tools more rapidly.  This last aspect is important, as it often doesn’t “just happen” – a lesson we’ve learnt in our own digital journey.

One team, one dream

In global businesses like ours, with thousands of employees spread around the world, technology doesn’t entirely replace in-person collaboration, but it does unlock new opportunities.  As our workforce has become more distributed, we’re making a concerted effort to drive our own digital transformation with collaboration tools – while being mindful of the potential downsides.

For us, this means concrete initiatives to build alignment across personal, team and organisational goals, along with helping people learn about new technologies and adapt their working styles to collaborate better.

It takes work, and there have been some important learnings and inevitable missteps along the way. But, by implementing the right technology and embracing the change, we’re actually seeing new and better forms of collaboration, on top of the expected benefits of a distributed workforce – like getting great talent wherever it may be, and improved work-life balance.

It’s an exciting time for our business – and for other businesses worldwide.

Read more about how to pave the way for better collaboration.