Team collaboration has been tested to new levels in 2020 as knowledge workers migrate to working from home, and for many of us, this is now the new working normal.
In the post normal reality, collaboration between team members will continue to evolve into becoming a fusion of remote, virtual and physical presence when it makes sense to meet in person with our teammates, and it will always make sense to meet with people.
We have observed through our customers how the effects of 2020 have changed the way they manage their teams and run their operations – some with highly successful results that have benefited their ability to adjust to fluid changes in the economy. We’ve considered what our customers have learnt and in particular how team collaboration tools have played a fundamental part in their adjustment to working remotely.
We employ a myriad of team collaboration software tools to get the job done. Perhaps the most exciting realization is that we’re at the beginning of a new early adopter phase for new tools to rise to the surface, now that the construct of people sitting in an office is dissolving. The opportunity for individuals to seek out tools to support their personal work experience in the post normal is now apparent.
Following are trends we’ve considered are coming fast, as early as 2021, and what leading software vendors are doing to support teams through this new work evolution.
Email is fundamentally rooted in the construct of modern communication. We connect and collaborate with others; both within our own teams and with anyone else in the world. But our inboxes (and yes, most of us have many) are the result of this democratized medium – we have to endure everything and anything in one continuous unexpected and unstructured stream.
Slack are working to release direct messaging between slack workspaces. This goes beyond shared channels with the ability to direct message users located in external workspaces from within your workspace of choice. This enables Slack to double down on solidifying their user base by allowing communication constructs across teams located in other organizations. The ability to verify organizations would also ensure invites are coming from ‘verified by Slack’ workspaces.
Microsoft Teams has seen explosive growth during the pandemic, primarily driven by the work from home transition. While still in its infancy compared with Slack, Teams has quickly become the new comms cornerstone for those organizations who operate on the Microsoft stack. Clearly Microsoft have the advantage of leveraging their Office 365 clients and the growth is reflective of this reach (which achieves great influence by supporting Teams in 93 languages).
The ‘Me’ stack
The nature of work has changed, and how we work and who we do it with is also changing. More of us will be freelancing in the post normal and by 2027, more than half of the United States workforce will be a free agent by choice. This means we’re evolving with sophisticated pace our own ‘me’ stacks. Our choice of work tools, not enforced on us by an IT department, will result in less corporate autocracy and more individualism in the context of how individuals choose to perform their work.
If work does evolve to become a collection of ‘me’ stacks, then tools like Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and many others are more conducive to supporting individuals in the construct of the freelance knowledge worker landscape. We apply for work on job boards, we attend interviews on Zoom, we’re provided access to Slack workspaces and we’re added to another G Suite domain.
More of us will transition from a vertically integrated suite of desktop apps, supported and administered by IT, to an increasing horizontally federated suite of web apps that allow us to work more efficiently across organizations, continents and time zones. Our phones are personalized, our banking is personalized and how we shop for groceries and entertainment are personalized. Our work and who we do it with will also be personalized based on time, commitment and remuneration. Employers are progressively looking at how to build flexibility into their workforce as tidal shifts within the economy will continue for years to come.
As we’ve transitioned to homeworking, the ‘me’ stack trend needs to be housed within a workspace nomenclature; the ‘me’ ultimately requires an ‘us’ in order to achieve work at scale. 2020 has generated a seismic degree of urgency when it comes to ensuring our homes have successfully pivoted to operate as communal working environments that we share with our spouses (who are working in the other room), our kids and our pets.
Google has rebranded G Suite as Google Workspace, and has introduced a new ‘Business Plus’ pricing tier that provides an improved integration experience between all of the G Suite applications that we’re familiar with. A notable feature is the ability to generate documents directly in Google Chat, highlighting the transition that many of us have made in 2020 from email to chat as our primary method of communicating with our team.
This move also signifies that Google is trailing both Slack and Teams when it comes to not only where work is being discussed, but where work commences and who is involved. Emerging are three clear workspace choices for team collaboration. Slack and Google, supporting both the traditional team structure, as well as the emerging ‘me’ stack community, and Microsoft who preside over their traditional 365 domain.
As workspaces transform the way we work, so do the tools we use. While chat is quickly replacing email, chat isn’t suitable for managing the ongoing need for long-form content. The Papermind app for Slack is one example of emerging tools that extend the work experience beyond chat.
Team collaboration is all about people, and learning to work with people whilst being isolated from each other is perhaps the greatest learning that we’ve all undertaken in 2020.
When we spend time with people in the office we intrinsically develop an understanding of who they are, their likes and dislikes and what they’re best at when it comes to contributing to the team. When we’re isolated, we’re naturally disconnected from our teammates. How can teams compensate for this physical disparity? It’s difficult, and for most of us we have managed to adapt to new levels of trust. And trust is at the core of any successful collaboration, so how do team members who haven’t seen each other in months, or who’ve never met those new team members, build and strengthen personal connections?
Ensuring our team members are doing well, and supporting them through the challenges of working remotely has given rise to wellness apps for teams.
The Donut app for Slack is one example that regularly introduces team members who don’t know each other. As new members join, Donut will pair workers together on Slack and encourage them to meet or chat remotely.
And with all of us working remotely, being recognized for our contribution is key to developing an inclusive culture. And sometimes it can be easy as giving someone a taco! The Hey!Taco app for Slack allows team members to gift someone a taco, or two. Everyone has a limit of five taco’s per day, but the happiness of receiving one or multiple taco’s never ends :)
With these personalized wellness experiences now permeating from our chat windows, it’s clear that disruption is coming for more traditional HR vendors who rely on work practices and physical working environments which have been disrupted due to the fluid changes in how our teams are now working from home.
Whether most of us return to the office in 2021 or not, the rise of personalized work tools is here to stay, as these are the practices we’ve come to rely on in building our team collaboration experiences in 2020.
Image by Adrianna Calvo