Pagoda Blog

How to Use Technology to Improve Collaboration in the Workplace

January 3, 2019

A highly collaborative workplace can foster creativity, boost morale, and improve productivity. The wrong approach, however, can slow down or even derail an important project rather than speed up the process. Creating a highly collaborative workforce requires patience, experimentation, and investment in the right tools for your unique team dynamics and the needs of your industry. Fortunately, new technologies offer flexible ways to connect your team members whether they’re working in the same room or across the globe.


It’s important, however, to understand how to effectively leverage these tools so that they foster productive collaboration rather than distraction or aversion. We’ve put together several tips that will help you leverage technology so that your workplace can benefit from the many positive side effects healthy collaboration has to offer.  


Invest in an online communication tool

There are certain items of business that don’t require an in-person meeting or phone call. You could use email but our inboxes are typically overflowing and it’s all too easy for an important email to get lost in the shuffle. When you need a quick, organized way to update your team on a project status, ask a quick question, or share feedback on the latest version of a document, an online communication tool streamlines your workflow and speeds up the process.


Slack allows you to organize conversations into different channels and securely share documents and files with your entire team. Microsoft Teams offers a suite of tools that rivals Slack’s and is great for teams accustomed to Office 365. Here at Pagoda, we primarily use G Suite for our online communication and collaboration needs. Although it doesn’t offer app integration, activity tracking, or different channels for project-specific conversations, as a small team we don’t need as many bells and whistles. We primarily use Google Drive for document sharing and Google Hangouts for conference calls.


Stay on top of deadlines and to-do’s through a project management tool

Help your employees meet their deadlines with an online project management tool like Asana. Asana allows you to create organized to-do lists, attach relevant documents and files, and assign individuals to each task. You can also add deadlines and set reminders to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.


Set clear communication guidelines

Whatever tools you decide on, you should set clear communication guidelines so employees understand what conversations are productive online and which should be reserved for in-person meeting, email, or a phone call. For example, you can create guidelines around expected response times and alternative follow-up channels if a colleague fails to respond after the designated amount of time. It’s also important to remind employees that personal conversations should never be held through a business communication tool.


Use video conferencing for remote workers and telecommuters

If all or part of your team is remote, you will need to adjust how you collaborate to ensure these team members feel included. Online communication and project management tools are essential for a remote workforce but if used exclusively, they can create feelings of isolation and atrophy their motivation. Fostering a strong company culture with remote employees requires regular check-ins outside of email and chat. Make an effort to schedule weekly video conferencing meetings so that everyone feels like they’re part of the team. This not only boosts morale but can help team members feel more invested in your company.   


Combine online communication tools with in-person meetings

Similarly, while some employees may prefer to connect with their coworkers primarily online, others may languish without face-to-face interactions. When establishing effective collaboration techniques for your workplace, make sure you understand the needs of each of your employees. For example, according to a survey of more than 14,000 people conducted by Microsoft and YouGov, younger employees (18-21 yrs) typically prefer chat services like Slack. Millennials and Gen X’ers (22-54 yrs), on the other hand, prefer email and Baby Boomers (55-59 yrs for the study) typically prefer to share ideas through in-person meetings. One thing that was consistent across all generations was that short and sweet forms of communication are preferred over long and detailed methods. Try restructuring your meetings to be as succinct and productive as possible. Quick, yes or no questions are probably best handled via chat or email, freeing up valuable time in your meetings for more complex problem-solving.


Consider moving your business to the cloud

Moving your business to the cloud makes it possible for your employees to collaborate whether they’re in the office, working from home, or traveling on business. Cloud service providers like G Suite or Office 365 also offer an entire suite of online collaboration tools, including instant file sharing, documents and spreadsheets with real-time editing capabilities, and integrated calendars. Before you commit to transferring all your data to a cloud service provider and adopting a new workflow, you should consider feasibility, the stability of your internet connection, and who will manage your new cloud services. Read more about these three important considerations here.       


Provide training and time to adjust to new collaboration tools

Even if you have younger employees that grew up with direct messaging and online chat, don’t expect your workforce to immediately feel comfortable using a new collaboration tool for work. Humans are creatures of habit and it can take all of us time to adjust to new processes or technologies in the office. When you introduce a new tool, expect some push back and be receptive to your employees’ concerns, even if you’re sure they will benefit from the change in the long run.  


What is your experience with creating a collaborative workplace? Have you tried online tools like Asana and Slack? We’d love to hear how incorporating technology into your workplace has fostered collaboration within your company or if you’ve found it challenging to adopt new tools. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter or reach out directly via email and let us know.


Related posts:


Why You Need a BYOD Policy and How to Create It

8 Easy Hacks to Improve Your Productivity Online

3 Ways Technology Can Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity


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