How to Communicate and Collaborate Seamlessly in the Work-From-Anywhere World

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The new world of work has undoubtedly changed how we communicate and collaborate. With employees working from multiple locations, it challenges businesses to establish a new tech infrastructure that supports at least three modes of work – in-office, hybrid, and remote. Antti Nivala, founder and CEO of M-Files, discusses how to build systems that enable seamless communication and collaboration in a work-from-anywhere setting.

Many people find remote or hybrid working liberating, but there are still some unanswered questions, including how businesses could communicate effectively in today’s work-from-anywhere world. What constitutes a good office environment in the cloud era? How can you empower your employees when they work in time zones that are vastly different?

The answers all come down to culture. You can’t just send a laptop to employees and expect them to be able to communicate effectively with their colleagues. There needs to be a cultural change within the business, supported by document management platforms promoting collaboration and communication. 

As Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” So how can forward-facing companies promote better communication and collaboration within a work-from-anywhere organization to enable these “great things” to happen?

See More: Tech Talk: How Collaboration Solutions Are Impacting the Hybrid Work Era

Face the Anywhere-Anytime Challenge

As workers are freed from the limits or restrictions of an office, they are also making choices about when they work. This is promoting a shift to asynchronous collaboration as American workers continue to spread out into remote teams across time zones. 

Knowledge workers must be able to collaborate from virtually any device and at any time – but with that shift comes daunting challenges. For instance, knowledge workers are not only dispersed but so are their documents and data. According to findings Opens a new window from Wakefield Research and Elastic findings, one in five U.S. knowledge workers reported that searching for relevant information is their primary problem while working remotely. Employees often are unable to access critical documents due to a lack of collaborative, user-friendly information management systems and use outdated versions of documents due to sharing documents via email.

Unlocking information and empowering employees to share it easily and securely is essential for businesses to get more done in an “always-on” world. But they can’t do that if critical information is still locked up in data silos or on a hard drive somewhere in an office. The first step is to connect all critical data into a single source of truth, with the help of a document management platform, so that all employees have access to the information they need when they need it. The second step is to facilitate different types of content collaboration, such as ad-hoc peer reviewing of a memo, co-authoring a large report with a team, or structured reviews, approvals, and publishing of a contract or a project deliverable. All these examples can be achieved regardless of time and location to improve communication within an organization, but also with customers and partners. 

Promote Information Sharing 

Information sharing has changed in the work-from-anywhere world. Employees can no longer tap each other on the shoulder to ask questions or walk into someone’s office to get help. Leaders need to find a way of extrapolating the information that resides in their heads and making it available to the wider organization. This can be achieved on an individual, team, or company level with various mechanisms such as coaching, daily meetings, project retrospectives, all-hand sessions, and so on. Each of these is fit for certain types of information sharing and systematically builds towards the culture of sharing when exercised.

All of this can be taken to the next level with the help of proper document management. On the most basic level, this could mean simply storing all the content from the above activities in one central repository, including recordings from all-hands sessions. In a more proactive approach, gathering lessons learned could be a mandatory (or rewarded) step before completing projects. Finally, some organizations implement systematic knowledge capture processes to identify documents for re-use and filing them to a companywide knowledge bank.

The other aspect of successful information sharing is the ability to discover content easily. It starts by having transparent and easily accessible documentation from a technical and access rights point of view so that every employee in the company can access and learn from the information available. Document management systems continue to classify and tag information in ways that facilitate discovery. These systems that rely on metadata-driven architectures make it easier for individuals to find the information they need. They can search documents based on what they are and what they are related to rather than where they are stored. 

This additional documentation may feel burdensome at times, and some executives may be concerned about the high levels of transparency required for a work-from-anywhere organization to succeed, but it is necessary to allow for geographic flexibility. It also captures the organization’s institutional knowledge into a concrete asset that is not tied to individual people.

Support Brainstorming, Problem-solving, and Learning

This new work-from-anywhere world has also opened more possibilities for brainstorming and problem-solving. Traditionally, brainstorms would have been conducted in a meeting room, with some employees unable to participate due to geographic location or time constraints. Now they can be conducted over video calls or in a shared document where team members can leave their questions, suggestions, or ideas and let team members in other time zones collaborate at their earliest convenience. This can promote more creative collaboration, such as sharing early-stage ideas, documents, or plans, and make employees more open to feedback. It can also relieve the pressure to provide polished work when opposed to having to present in more formal, synchronous sessions.

Another way to make your business more collaborative, efficient, and dynamic is to provide access to learning possibilities. In addition to comprehensive onboarding processes and information libraries, organizations should enable and empower employees to be successful by providing in-house learning and self-development courses that can be taken whenever and wherever they desire. This not only enables employees to do what they were hired for but to also elevate them to the next level.

Work-from-anywhere might present hurdles for organizations at first, but with the correct strategy, organizational processes, technologies, and leadership, many enterprises, teams, and functions can make it a positive for their business and promote more effective collaboration and communication.

What are your challenges with collaborating in a hybrid work environment? How are you managing them? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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