The unexpected rash of business shutdowns and work-from-home arrangements sparked by the COVID-19 crisis exposed the need for virtual collaboration technologies in a dramatic way. Unable to return to our cubicles, most of us saw in-person meetings and sales calls replaced by Zoom meetings, text messages, team chats on Slack and Microsoft Teams, and good ole’ teleconference calls.
Now, as 2021 brings the promise of new vaccines and a potential return to “business as usual,” some people might wonder: Who will need a digital collaboration platform once we are able to work together face-to-face again?
In reality, the need for more robust virtual workspaces will continue long after the pandemic ends. Virtual workspaces, digital collaboration platforms, and similar tools were already being developed to address a number of issues organizations face well before the current crisis accelerated their adoption.
If you have not already done so, business owners, educators, executives, and entrepreneurs ought to start thinking about how their work can most effectively be done in the post-COVID world. Have you considered:
- How you will collaborate with people in different geographic locations and in different time zone?
- What work can best be done virtually?
- How will teaching be different?
- How will a sales call evolve?
- How will a board meeting change?
- How will product development happen?
- How can key interactions with customers we reimagined with digital collaboration tools?
A digital collaboration workspace potentially helps us unleash our creativity because the platform is inherently visually driven. It’s not just me listening to someone talk about a proposed course of action online or reading a static document they prepared ahead of time. Now I can see what people are doing and how they are thinking. As I see watch them do something on my screen, I can chime in with, “That’s not quite the way I was seeing it. How about this approach?” The virtual platform lets everyone co-create dynamic solutions to shared challenges. And, if you have a thought in the middle of the night, contribute your idea to the digital workspace and others will see it when they log in. The digital work space becomes a place where work can happen both synchronously and asynchronously.
Looking beyond the current work-from-home circumstances, some ways of working seem to be changing permanently. COVID-19 may have been the impetus, but we have moved beyond shifting practices simply to survive. We are experimenting with (and frankly, expecting) better ways of working virtually so we can thrive.
In one professional services business, for example, 90% of the work was delivered face-to-face with clients. During 2020, everything had to shift to virtual work. For 2021 and beyond, this firm will neither be entirely virtual nor in-person; they are planning adopt a hybrid model (part virtual and part face-to-face). With the right tools, there are activities can be done better done virtually than how they were done previously. Now people are accustomed to new, virtual ways of working, and this firm plans to continue to follow the virtual path where it makes sense and reintroduce face-to-face interactions when it is safe and where it is necessary.
Has your organization thought about how you will integrate digital collaboration tools like a shared, digital whiteboard in the future? These tools can provide important means for enabling smarter, more dynamic and more effective ways of working.