Industry Insights

Collaboration Technologies: The Power, The Pain and The Remedy.

By Donal Sullivan, CTO, Auxilion.

If you ask 20 people about how lockdown and remote working impacted them, their lives, their family dynamics, their work-life balance and their way of working, you’d likely get 20 different answers.  It has been different for everyone.  It’s still largely unknown what the new normal looks like when it comes to a post COVID world i.e. will everyone be back at the office.  Will a hybrid model or blended approach of office and Working from Home (WFH) be the new practice?  It’s likely too early to tell.

However, 2020 and 2021 have been the years where collaboration technologies skyrocketed in terms of adoption.  These technologies have transformed how we work; how we interact and, ultimately, how we remain productive and impactful. (It’s also the time when everyone has said ‘you’re on mute’ about a thousand times to increasingly furrowed brows). This raises a lot of questions about how employees (especially office workers) feel about these tools.  We wanted to know the gains, the pains and everything in between.

We recently commissioned (in partnership with our friends at Microsoft) a survey of 500 office workers in Ireland to understand their behaviours and attitudes when it comes to communication and collaboration.  We wanted to know how it impacts Irish businesses, how WFH changed the lives of employees and what they need and expect from collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams (which 59% of survey respondents use).

Tools like Microsoft Team are designed to improve productivity, enrich communication, increase transparency and collaboration.  This is the vision.  But these benefits are not always realised.  These tools have really been stress tested the past year and a half.  Often used in the past to support and enhance a working in the office or blended working environment, almost overnight they had to become the cornerstone of a company’s entire WFH strategy.  The massive increase in usage of these platforms demonstrate this dependency but also highlight some key challenges.

Collaboration, Communication and Challenges

It’s clear that the impact and attitudes to these collaboration technologies can sometimes be linked to individuals’ personal preferences in terms of working i.e. some want to be back in the office yesterday and others love the work/life balance of being at home.  It’s also clear that they’re the future and that respondents believe that this is their new ‘working normal’ (whether in the office or at home). The question will become about maximising value, upskilling and training employees and overcoming any adoption hurdles.

  • Biggest blockers in terms of effective collaboration with colleagues cited as not being able to talk in person (44%), people not being as available as before (30%) and difficulty gaining access to or finding work files and systems (25%)
  • On average, 21.31 minutes are lost per day searching for docs in company systems or exchanging docs by email (Males lose more time daily through this than females)
  • 22% said security concerns using communication tools was the main blocker to collaboration
  • 57% of respondents said they hadn’t received proper training on how to effectively use their work collaboration systems (such as Microsoft Teams)

Impact, Use and Future:

  • Over a fifth (22%) said they don’t feel their input is as valuable in online collaborations as it is in person
  • Three quarters (75%) believe organisations will continue to use virtual applications when restrictions ease
  • On average, 62.20 minutes spent daily on virtual meetings
  • Microsoft Teams is the most popular collaboration tool with 59% of respondents using it
  • Primary use of Microsoft Teams is for calls and virtual meetings (58%) – document sharing came second (45%) and messaging service (41%)

Remote Working Habits (the lighter side)

Life gets in the way.  When you blur the lines between work and home, it’s no surprise that it can bring a new dimension to a call or meeting.  There’s the guest appearance from family, friends, housemates and pets.  There are those times that people just shouldn’t schedule a meeting. There are the unexpected fashion choices, and the revelations that little lies are more common than you’d expect.

  • 41% have had a family member or partner accidentally appear on camera during a work meeting, while a pet has done the same for a third (34%) of respondents
  • 35% of people have done virtual work meeting in PJs, with more than a quarter (27%) joining one while still in bed
  • 26% have lied that wi-fi has crashed to get out of a meeting
  • Worst time of the week for virtual meeting was found to be Friday afternoon, with 36% citing it, while Monday morning came a close second at 35%
  • Most annoying virtual meeting habits found to be forgetting to go on mute (44%), always joining meetings late (35%) and eating on camera (32%)

While some of the findings are insightful, and others amusing there is a very real impact to Irish businesses when we look at the use, adoption and challenges of collaboration technologies.  They are powerful tools, that if used correctly can change (for the better) how your employees work and communicate.  There’s also the downside.  We recently released these survey results to the media which included a calculation of the cost to the Irish economy as employees struggle to access files and documents, ultimately losing thousands of hours of productivity and the associated financial impact.

As I said to the media, “There is absolutely no reason Irish workers should be losing so much time out of their day trying to find files and work with colleagues – and that’s not to mention the €3.3 billion it’s costing businesses. The tools are already out there to enable people to collaborate in real-time, access files securely and swiftly, and realise the benefits offered by remote or hybrid working.

“Of course, staff also need to know how to use these tools effectively so there is an educational piece that companies need to address. But if they do embrace this type of digital thinking, backed up by the best technologies and the right strategies, it will not only empower workers but boost business output and support company growth both now and in the future – whatever, and wherever, their future workplace is.”

And of course, this is where Auxilion can help.

For a full overview of the press release, click here.

To learn more about Auxilion’s Modern Workplace service, contact us today, a member of our Digital Services team is on hand to answer your questions.