Collaboration: #1 Reason to Go Back to the Office

Despite remote work's meteoric rise there are still many aspects of work that are best done in-person.

The shift towards remote working is probably the most impactful societal change the workforce has seen since the 1940s. The percentage of people working remotely has doubled between 2019 and 2021, with 53% of workers expecting to work in a hybrid setting and 24% stating they expect to be fully remote by 2025.

53% of workers expect to work in a hybrid setting and 24% state they expect to be fully remote by 2025.

However, it does seem like the shine of working remotely on a full-time basis has worn off for both employees and employers.

According to a PwC survey, 11% of workers said they would like to return to the office full-time, and 62% said they would like to adopt a hybrid approach.

People working in-person

The motivations for this approach vary between individuals. Some miss the sociability of the office; others would like stronger boundaries between their work and home life.

20% of remote workers cited problems with communication and collaboration while working remotely.

The Problem With Fully Remote Collaboration

Collaboration is a vital component of success. While technology and communication patterns have adapted to collaborate effectively remotely, there are very real limitations to collaborating when team members aren’t in the same room.

A large virtual meeting

Remote collaboration relies largely on asynchronous communication - where one person provides information, followed by a time lag between when the information is received, processed, and responded to.

While many employees have become used to this, these messages can conflict with normal rules of social interaction. Without an immediate response, there’s the possibility of getting distracted, misinterpreting information, second-guessing our message, or even growing impatient and frustrated.

Distance is created in three ways during remote collaboration: physical place and time distance, operational distance in bandwidth and skill levels, and even affinity, such as interdependency and values.

Distance is created in three ways during remote collaboration: physical place and time distance, operational distance in bandwidth and skill levels, and even affinity, such as interdependency and values.

Managers find themselves battling to create valuable opportunities for in-person interaction, team-building, and meaningful collaboration as remote working can easily lead to siloed and independent working behaviors.

Conversely, some tasks and projects are improved through remote work.

Tasks that can be completed by individual workers that require focused time and attention, for example, are best done in a quiet and distraction-free remote environment without interruption from co-workers.

Similarly, “unpleasant” tasks like admin, filing expense claims, or compliance training are often made more manageable by completing them at home.

To get the best of both worlds, many companies have opted for a hybrid working model where employees divide their time between the office and remote locations.

Hybrid Working and Collaboration

There are several different approaches companies can take to hybrid working.

Some companies adopt fully flexible hot desking, allowing employees to pick when they would like to attend the office, if at all. Others require employees to come in on certain days of the week or for a prescribed number of days in the month.

Many companies require employees to come into the office for any meeting or project that is improved by working together in person.

We compiled a list of hybrid policies adopted by some of the top companies in the world.

Companies should decide which approach works best for them according to their culture and the nature of their work. We recommend starting with a company-wide survey.

What Types Of Collaboration Are Best In The Office?

According to a study by Deloitte, 55% of workers believe productivity levels were the same or higher than when working in the office due to fewer distractions. However, the same study also noted that 31% of employees thought they were more collaborative when in the office.

And according to Forbes, companies that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.

Companies that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.

For the purpose of this article we’re using collaboration in the broader sense of simply completing work-related tasks in-person with colleagues.

Creative Work and Ideation

When teams work together on a problem or project, the enthusiasm in the room is enhanced by a positive, free-flowing atmosphere and free, unfiltered exchange of ideas. The passion of one team member sparks that of the others so that they are more likely to dedicate time and effort to generating and contributing ideas. Brainstorming together is more effective (and exciting) than doing the same thing in isolation or in a large virtual meeting.

Expanding Perspectives

Team interactions enable workers to expand their horizons and perspectives. Electronic discussions are often short and to the point, whereas in-person discussions can be drawn out and bring a better understanding of the uniqueness of each team member to the fore. This helps teams improve their communication, build relationships, and foster understanding and insight into new perspectives.

Collaboration On High-Risk Projects

Disjointed teams communicating asynchronously may find it hard to navigate difficult accounts or problems, but a synergized in-person team enjoys a deeper connection and become more enthusiastic problem solvers. Team leaders will quickly gain insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and can structure the project accordingly.

At the Start of a Project

It’s a best practice to opt for a focused and organized in-person meeting when charting a path on a new project. What constitutes the start can really vary, as large projects can have many ‘starts’ as aspects are broken down into meaningful achievements. Involving all team members that will have action items on the project is a great idea and making sure to do this in-person ensures clear communication, buy-in and commitment from all those involved.

When a Deadline is Close

Teams meeting in-person is a great idea when there is a time-crunch and the finish line requires a number of complex pieces coming together in a perfectly synchronized way. An in-person meeting a little before the deadline can help all those involved clarify actionable items and responsibilities. Of course, documenting clearly with meeting efficiency tools like Hypercontext is essential to then making the most of the in-person meeting when team members will go off to work asynchronously.  

When Miscommunication is Likely

Some conversations are inherently sensitive. Executing these conversations poorly can result in teams performing poorly, or worse: disintegrating. Team leaders should opt to call in-person meetings when it’s likely that an email, virtual meeting, or chats will poorly convey the intended meaning or decision. For example: if team members are being reassigned tasks it may help to speak in person to carefully convey the reasons why.

How To Make Hybrid Collaboration Easier

While hybrid working creates more opportunities for collaboration, effective collaboration doesn’t happen organically - it should be proactively enabled using the right tools and office structure.

Here are a few of the ways offices can empower employees to collaborate more effectively.

  • Hot desking and sync tools: When employees arrive at the office, they shouldn’t waste time looking for a place to sit and work or meet. Hot desking tools like Zynq enable teams to book meeting rooms and workspaces with ease. Zynq’s Buddy Schedule Syncs allow team members to schedule their in-office days by notifying users when close colleagues will be in the office.

  • Add more meeting and huddle spaces: The office should move from an area dedicated to individual workspaces to one that is optimized for close collaboration. Adding meeting and huddle spaces where team members can sit together and discuss projects is vitally important if you want to enable collaboration.

  • Create water-cooler hangouts: Many employees were hired during the pandemic and never met their colleagues in person or seldom worked from the office. Socialization doesn’t always happen naturally, so encourage water-cooler hangouts, brown bag lunch-and-learn sessions, and both in-person and virtual team meetings where employees can become acquainted and learn about one another’s projects in an informal way.

Bear in mind that many employees are resistant to coming back to the office because they enjoy the freedom and flexibility of remote work.

If you are shifting from a remote to a hybrid model of working, make sure that your employees understand why and when they are required to come in. One of the most effective strategies businesses can deploy to bring their workforce back to the office is demonstrating that some meetings are simply more effective (and enjoyable) when held face-to-face and in-person.

Here at Zynq we specialize in helping companies create and manage a hybrid workplace policy through desk, room and visitor management, health screeners and much more! Reach out to us if you'd like to leave more.

Share this article: Link copied to clipboard!