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The future of work is a tech (and management) challenge

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Even Apple must surely now see that the future of work is a technology challenge. Solving that challenge will demand new generations of office equipment designed to support much deeper experiences of remote and hybrid collaboration, and solutions must reflect the needs of employees.

Searching for a collaboration superstar

Corel offers up fresh insights from its Collaboration Survey, which polled 2,027 office workers in the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. It found that 54% of enterprise employees believe poor collaboration tools are a problem and 70% believe they limit productivity and waste time.

So, what’s the state of play?

Reading between the lines, businesses need to think much more deeply to ensure the tools they supply are appropriate and sufficiently good that workers will use them. They need to provide ease of use and functionality, and people need to be properly trained in how to use them.

Corel’s data shows:

  • 27% claim businesses aren’t investing in the right tools.
  • 25% agree that collaboration tools have poor functionality.
  • 22% of employees say they aren’t using the tools at their disposal.
  • 21% of employees state they aren’t trained to use the tools.

What are the characteristics of a good collaboration solution?

Corel’s data suggests that tools must be platform agnostic, must work across every device, and should enable multiple people to work on the same project at the same time. They needs to support people working asynchronously, be simple and intuitive, and improve the employee experience.

Because those tools that get used most effectively will inevitably be those that employees like using. (Here are six virtual collaboration tools you might want to try.)

We’ve always known this, of course. Think back to the pre-pandemic years, when the twin mantras of employee choice and employee experience taught us that no business should insist workers use poorly designed software. There has long been a reactionary belief that work-related products should be hard to use because they are used for work, but the advent of the iPhone and BYOD should have ended such thinking.

No modern business should rely on an interface that’s not developed with employee experience in mind — particularly when Corel’s survey shows 41% of workers have left, or would consider leaving, their job because of poor collaboration at work.

It is also worth noting a recent MindGym survey; it showed the transformation of the workplace is also taking its toll on managers, 70% of whom feel burnt-out as they struggle to get a grip on these changes.

Business leaders must recognize their employees need help at senior and junior levels.

Relevance is a business challenge

While simplicity is a design challenge, relevance is a business challenge. That’s why employers seeking collaboration tools should speak to their teams first, engage with them to find out what challenges they face, and work to identify and select the most appropriate solution for that unique set of needs. That’s how Volvo improved its own field services teams.

That’s not to say that every firm will find a one-fits-all solution. But employee engagement and collective decision-making can at least help optimize success. You aren’t investing in autonomous decision making (a vital quality to remote work) if you insist on forcing people to use ineffective tools chosen in the boardroom.

At the front end of your business, the employee experience is your business, not ancillary to it, which means your choices impact how workers experience their day.

[Also read: Enterprise tech? Don’t forget to make it human]

It’s not rocket science.

Shiny happy people holding hands

A happy employee will use the tools you provide and boost your bottom line. Tools that don’t get used because you’ve forced them onto your employees are far less likely to achieve success.

That’s true across in-person teams, but is far more an issue for remote teams, which need high degrees of loyalty and engagement to succeed.

And yet, despite these realities, some managers insist on hierarchical approaches to remote work. That’s why 78% of employees say leadership could be doing more to boost collaboration.

“Respondents reported issues with their company failing to invest in the right tools (27%), current tools lacking necessary functionality (25%), a complete lack of access to collaboration tools (22%), and lack of training on the tools they do have access to (21%),” Corel’s survey says.

Employees say they need videoconferencing, remote access, and instant messaging, of course. But they also seek tools for mind mapping, concept creation, and direct collaboration such as design and review.

Where tomorrow shines

The jury has already returned its verdict on remote and hybrid work. Since the pandemic struck, we’ve learned that hybrid and remote working can be productive, but having the right tools helps maximize that opportunity. Even Apple knows this, which is why it continues to try to find its own new models for work.

Corel’s Chief People Officer, Scott Day, said in a statement:

“This survey underscores the alarming cost of inadequate collaboration tools and highlights that organizations of all sizes are limited by the quick fix solutions that were implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Rather than improving employees’ ability to be productive, these stop-gap solutions are frequently a barrier to getting work done and can significantly impair hybrid and remote workers’ overall productivity. Listening to employees, creating an environment in which people want to work, and investing in simple and intuitive collaboration tools is what will set businesses up for success in 2022.”

Meet me in the crowd

The future of work is a technology challenge. Understanding what that means requires a close collaboration both within and across teams. It may also necessitate conversations with key partners to ensure systems interoperate effectively.

And don’t neglect to consider the lessons of Shadow IT – which is how your employees are already asking for help to get work done.

Corel’s Collaboration Survey Report 2022 is available to download.

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