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Tackle remote and
online collaboration
challenges to boost
productivity

Author: Phil Muncaster

Collaboration is the key to success. More than a year after lockdown measures spurred the great migration from the corporate office to the home office, businesses are struggling to stay productive. Some organizations found temporary digital workarounds that held together over the short term. But as businesses emerge from the pandemic, they are beset by the same online collaboration challenges that have long impeded productivity. They need long-term solutions to ensure success.

Figuring out a way to overcome these concerns is critical. Leveraging the benefits of online collaboration could hold the key.

Online collaboration is here to stay

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of online collaboration were clear. When endowed with the right tools and policies, online collaboration drives productivity and innovation, reduces time to market, enhances the customer experience and boosts job satisfaction.

Many workers are willing to adopt online collaboration tools—and many already have. Before the coronavirus pandemic, 17% of workers in the United States worked full time from home. By April 2020, that number had shot to 44%.

And it's not likely that workers will head back into the office en masse once the pandemic subsides.

"By 2024, remote workers will represent 30% of all employees worldwide, an increase of 13% over 2019, to nearly 600 million employees," Gartner analyst Andrew Neff predicted in 2020.1

Common remote and online collaboration challenges

But reaping the benefits of online collaboration requires more than tools. Ensuring success means addressing technical and online collaboration challenges.

Security and compliance

Sensitive internal and customer information flows through your collaboration platforms—and that data is a prime target for malicious cyber criminals. Malicious and negligent insiders pose risks, too—44% of breaches in 2020 involved internal actors, according to Verizon's 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report.

Tool vulnerabilities are one of the inevitable online collaboration challenges and must be promptly patched. Data leaks, weak passwords and unsanctioned platforms can expose your organization to security and compliance risks. Major security breaches could cause significant financial and reputational damage.

Communication siloes

If virtual collaboration is not properly managed, you might find multiple competing platforms in use throughout the organization. Mixed environments are the new normal, Nextplane writes; 79% of companies use multiple collaboration platforms—none of which were designed to work together. This puts teams, employees and third parties into separate siloes, dragging down productivity and spiking costs and administrative overhead for the IT department.

Screen fatigue and home office distractions

The virtual meeting has made remote work possible, The Economist reports. But that has come with a cost: The face-to-face on-screen proximity, the need to maintain eye contact and send exaggerated non-verbal cues, and the fact that the average person speaks 15% louder on video calls are stressful and exhausting. That's not a good combination if you want dynamic, energized workers.

The regular distractions of home life—such as family, pets, groceries and laundry—can stymie productivity, too, if they are not properly managed.

Cost

As useful as the benefits of online collaboration can be, they come at a cost. If users maintain corporate accounts on multiple platforms, the financial outlay for licenses becomes prohibitive.

Factor in the cost of guest accounts, and expenditures skyrocket. The typical enterprise adds a new guest user to Microsoft Teams every few minutes. At a cost of a few dollars each per month, this access soon becomes a serious financial burden.

Optimizing the benefits of online collaboration and reducing remote collaboration challenges

Overcoming online collaboration challenges means choosing the right technology and putting in place the policies and processes to ensure employees use solutions correctly. Here are some useful first steps to consider.

  • Research. Start by polling your employees about their day-to-day needs. Ask them what is working—and what is not.
  • Think. Which features do you want from an online collaboration platform? Instant messaging, voicemail, email, short message service, file- and screen-sharing, whiteboarding and workflow tools should come standard.
  • Consult. Discuss options with your IT team to better understand limitations. Your IT team can help you do due diligence on suppliers and ensure that your network can support various solutions.
  • Secure. Pay proper attention to vendors' security capabilities when appraising their offerings. Network security, end-to-end encryption, data center redundancy, strict access controls and comprehensive vulnerability management are things to look for.
  • Train. Ensure that your employees are comfortable with the technology they will use well before taking your new solution live. Giving them training on presenting virtually and working remotely could help to reduce stress and increase productivity.
  • Enforce. Setting rules around remote work and online collaboration could minimize some of remote work's inherent stresses. A limit on the duration and number of meetings per day—or offering asynchronous options—could reduce the screen fatigue of back-to-back video calls, for example.
  • Encourage. Consult your human resources department and outside stakeholders to drum up ways to help remote working staff cope with isolation, stress, distractions and online collaboration challenges.

How managed services can help

Unified communications as a service solutions—which deliver communication models using cloud technology—are a great place to begin your journey toward a dynamic, collaborative and more productive workplace. Unified solutions are managed by third-party providers and can be easily accessed by any employee, anywhere, any time. Managed unified communications as a service solutions can deliver:

  • Savings on upfront capital expenditures and ongoing operating expenditures, as the provider will manage, host update and secure software
  • Less need for in-house IT help, freeing up time that can be spent on more strategic tasks
  • Enhanced productivity, as users work from a single, unified portal and on the same platform
  • Seamless connectivity for the distributed workforce
  • Seamless customer service

Learn how unified communications platforms can provide scalable, interoperable solutions for online collaboration challenges.

1Gartner, Invest Implications: Forecast Analysis: Remote Workers Forecast, Worldwide, Andrew Neff, August 26, 2020, Andrew Neff, Invest Implications: Forecast Analysis: Remote Workers Forecast, Worldwide, https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3989492/invest-implications-forecast-analysis-remote-workers-for.