A new way of working remotely: Email and IM are not enough

Although the pandemic has radically changed the way we work, many of us still rely on the same old digital tools to connect with each other.

As we near the next stage of the pandemic, it is time to take a close look at how your business can improve communication and collaboration, since remote working is the norm.

The start of stay-at-home orders in March 2020 forced companies to use whatever tools they needed to work remotely for employees, often resulting in a chaotic patchwork with inherent security risks. More than half of hiring managers said that poor technology was the biggest barrier to working effectively, according to Gartner.

Email, along with group chat apps, was a sensible short-term patch solution. But with remote working showing no sign of disappearing – Global Workplace Analytics predicts that up to 30% of the workforce will be at least partially remote by the end of 2021 – email and chat alone won’t prevent that. Organizations need more sustainable collaboration tools that solve the pressing challenges of productivity, engagement, and innovation in a dispersed workforce.

Email is useful, but not great for collaboration

It’s hard to imagine working without email. According to McKinsey, knowledge workers spend an average of 28% of the work week managing email. Email plays an ingrained role in the business, and for good reason:

  • It’s familiar, easy, and convenient.
  • It’s effective for notifications.
  • It can be easily searched by date, sender and keyword.
  • It can be sorted into folders.

The problem is that email has become a crutch. We’ll turn to it automatically instead of using it on purpose when it’s best for the task at hand.

Email should be used sparingly even when working remotely due to the following shortcomings:

  • Data silos are created.
  • It doesn’t support complex collaboration (more on that below).
  • It’s a slow form of asynchronous communication.
  • It’s distracting and time consuming and can crowd out your main tasks.

Above all, emails prevent an effective exchange of knowledge, which forms the basis for close cooperation.

More than half of the remote workers have avoided sharing documents because they cannot find them or because it would take too long, like our (igloos) did recently

Survey found.

So is chat better than email? If you’ve been home for the past few months trying to keep up with endless teams or Slack conversations, you already know the answer.

The chat only postponed or made the problem worse

Chat apps raised expectations when they were first in the workplace. In practice, they can be useful for:

  • Reduction of the volume of emails
  • Speeding up simple questions and answers in both directions to keep work moving
  • Quick feedback from employees
  • Enable social interaction for remote workers
  • Start voice or video calls

However, the ease of IM can be a slippery slope. The aforementioned digital workplace survey, which surveyed 2,000 employees in medium and large companies, found that 39% of respondents falsely shared confidential content – from love letters to private company information – with colleagues while messaging.

Additional disadvantages of IM for collaboration, reflecting some of the pitfalls of email, include the following:

  • Catching valuable content and conversation in several different channels
  • Generate noise and distraction from overuse
  • Waste of time in personal conversations
  • Creating a stressful, always active culture

More than half of employees admit they are overwhelmed by the number of non-work-related messages sent in apps like Slack and Teams, as we found in our survey.

In the COVID-19 world of remote working, it is more important than ever to contain the chaos of unregulated, decentralized IM.

There is a crucial difference between simple and complex collaboration

In the current climate, few things are easy, and that includes working together in the workplace. Think of the collaboration as follows:

  • Easy collaboration Some employees work together to produce an output, such as: B. a document or a presentation.
  • Complex collaboration This involves the collaboration of multiple stakeholders on a multi-faceted project with multiple results.

How would you characterize your recent experiences with the cooperation? Facing the complex no doubt, with the added crease of little to no personal interaction.

In complex collaboration scenarios with cross-functional teams, transparency is critical. Every team member should be able to see every file and conversation in context when needed. That’s just not possible if you just connect via email and chat.

Data silos are the enemy of successful collaboration. The above survey found that one in four employees uses at least two unapproved apps to get their jobs done, which only adds to the all-too-common problem.

When people cannot share information, resources and knowledge because they use different or inadequate tools, there are far-reaching negative effects:

  • Waste of time and / or duplication of work
  • Stifling innovation
  • Breeding distrust
  • Obstruct corporate culture

Remote working is on the rise, so companies must find new ways to use their old tools to support complex collaborations.

A hybrid strategic model: It’s not just about what tools you use, it’s also about how you use them

Despite their limitations, email and instant messaging in the toolbox are essential for remote collaboration – but only if they are integrated into a central destination that gives your employees quick and easy access to relevant information and conversations.

The hybrid model for collaboration in the office combines email, instant messaging and your intranet:

  • IM or chat enables quick, direct one-on-one or group discussions and promotes a fast flow of actions and ideas between employees.
  • E-mail Allows for more detailed and slower communication and serves as a searchable, organizable repository.
  • Your intranet is the starting point for collaboration, which is tightly integrated into chat apps and emails from employees in order to obtain knowledge and to put conversations in the context of tasks / projects.

You are not alone if your intranet is not exactly up to date. Your remote workers don’t have to rely on email and IM. There’s another way.

Create collaboration zones in your intranet

Building a completely new intranet can be costly, complex, and require IT support and buy-in. Instead, consider creating customizable departmental or team zones on your current intranet. They are simple, inexpensive and do not require constant IT involvement, but they meet all the criteria for productive collaboration:

  • Providing a central goal with easy-to-use tools
  • Integration of preferred tools such as chat apps
  • Put conversations and important information in context
  • Improvement of knowledge management
  • Content easy to find
  • Avoid wasting time
  • Increase transparency
  • Increase productivity with shared calendars and to-do lists

78% of respondents to our digital workplace survey said that if they could, they would revamp their department’s intranet with solutions designed to address collaboration and communication challenges that are unique to their needs. This is a strong indication of the demand for dedicated departmental zones within corporate intranets.

With pre-built software solutions, your company can leverage next-generation intranet technology and create a powerful collaboration destination without losing employee tools and apps and without the expense and extensive change management of a brand new intranet.

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