Workforces are more distributed than ever.
Many modern employees work remotely from their homes, co-working spaces, and coffee shops. Others work on the go, regularly traveling between different cities and offices.
Coworkers are frequently located in different places, keep different office schedules, and often see each other intermittently.
Distributed workplaces demand an updated way of thinking about communication and collaboration. In this article, we’ll take a look at the modern workplace, sharing within teams, communication technology, and how to encourage collaboration.
The modern workplace is not a single location. Rather, it’s a network of constantly evolving locations that connects members of an organization. The modern workplace is best described as a flexible, dynamic, and collaborative space powered by technology within which work is done.
Continuous digital transformation and adaptation now drives the success of most business processes, empowering teams to do more with less. This means modern workers aren’t tied to any specific set of tools and are ready to change when the need arises.
The modern workplace has four pillars, each of which is required in order to function properly:
The first step in mastering communication and collaboration in the modern workplace is understanding what they mean.
Both communication and collaboration rely on sharing. However, the key difference is that communication is about sharing information, and collaboration is about sharing the outcome or result.
To master communication, modern workplaces must know and properly apply their communication loop; to master collaboration, they need the right collaboration stack.
The ideal communication methodology contains three sections: An inner loop, an outer loop, and an open loop.
Each of these loops are powered by their own unique tools designed to optimize communication within that specific loop.
The inner loop: The inner loop includes everyone that an employee consistently works with, usually on core projects and in their division. These people are often called their team, cluster, or working group.
The outer loop: The outer loop includes the rest of the organization. These people receive the same organization-wide messages, making this a helpful loop for leadership and human resources.
The open loop: The open loop includes everyone else. It helps employees to communicate with vendors, customers, outsourced workers, and anyone else who is not employed by the organization.
Microsoft's model of collaboration and teamwork
Once teams understand their communication loops, they’ll use the right collaboration stack to share not only information but outcomes and results. The following are four different collaboration stack options for organizations:
Inner loop: Trello – Widely considered a productivity tool, Trello allows project and task management communication.
Outer loop: Slack – Slack is a free-form collaboration platform that works well both within individual teams and across an organization.
Open loop: Thunderbird – Email allows for quick and simple communication. Mozilla Thunderbird is a free and open-source cross-platform email client made by the same team responsible for Firefox.
Inner loop: Hangouts Chat – Combining instant messaging with video conferencing, Hangouts Chat has become a surprisingly robust communication tool.
Outer loop: Google Sites – An often overlooked tool for building intranets, Google Sites is ideal for sharing information and works well with Google Drive.
Open loop: Gmail – Gmail is an email service that integrates with the entire Google business suite to make collaboration easier (and cut down on spam).
Inner loop: Jira – While it was originally designed for software development, Jira’s rich feature set makes it an ideal collaboration platform for teams managing complex products in an agile environment.
Outer loop: Workplace by Facebook – Workplace is a relatively new collaboration platform created by Facebook. It allows users to communicate in groups as well as directly, with a common space for organizations large and small.
Open loop: Zoho Mail – This email solution is part of Zoho Workplace and has been designed with business users in mind.
Inner loop: Teams – Microsoft quietly introduced Teams as a workspace instant messaging and collaboration tool in 2017 and quickly tied in features from across it’s office applications, including digital calls, AI powered meetings and group project management tools. In July 2018, they announced a fully featured free version for up to 300 users.
Outer loop: Yammer – Originally launched as a workplace social network, Yammer is a useful alternative to static company intranets, empowering company-wide sharing of information.
Open loop: Outlook – Like Gmail, Outlook is made powerful by its deep integration with Microsoft Office as well as Skype and OneDrive.
This link provides a look at a modern workplace in action.
The options shared above are all strong choices yet only include a subset of available tools.
Adoption of business chat apps: 2016 vs 2018
When choosing the right stack for your organization, keep in mind the following:
Choosing the right technology stack is just one step in mastering collaboration and communication. But it doesn't stop there. Management should take additional steps to encourage collaboration:
You already communicate and collaborate. Now it’s time to iterate and improve!
Learn what your employees really think of your communication and collaboration style with a whip-smart discussion guide by downloading our eBook.