13 Minutes of reading
Collaborative work in a hybrid context
Every employee has surely experienced the frustration of time-consuming meetings that don't achieve anything constructive. Increasingly viewed as a bad example of collaborative work, employees find their interest wanes, and they become more passive.
A US study even revealed that the majority of them are working on something else (73% of people surveyed) when they're in a meeting. Moreover, brainstorming sessions, i.e. involving a genuine exchange of ideas, only concern 5% of meetings according to this survey.
We're seeing a revival in collaboration at work. Online collaborative work platforms have grown dramatically with the boom in remote working. What's more, "physical" collaborative workspaces are diversifying and focusing on social interaction to encourage creativity and productive discussions.
Rise Up takes a look at the advances and benefits of collaborative working in companies!
What is the principle of collaborative working?
Collaborative work: definition
Collaborative work is defined as the collaboration between several employees to devise and implement a joint project. It often involves large-scale and/or strategic projects, involving a significant number of employees. Hierarchy no longer comes into play here. Each person contributes his or her technical skills, creativity and behavioural skills to achieve a joint mission. Of course, the quality of the interpersonal communication is paramount.
Collaborative work is deployed both remotely, thanks to platforms and other dedicated collaboration tools, and in the classroom. Companies often reorganise and decompartmentalise offices to create real collaborative workspaces, inviting more and better communication.
This way of working is based on a culture of collaboration. This requires a mindset in which listening, sharing, mutual aid and agility become the key words.
A new way of working based on collaborative platforms
Is a revolution is taking place in the world of work, where geographical boundaries are disappearing and yet collaboration is increasing through an array of online tools? One thing is for sure: the digitalisation of companies and constantly progressing technology are changing the way we work.
Collaborative platforms are clear evidence of this. Today, for many employees, consulting a shared calendar, chatting in a remote workgroup, sending and receiving messages to people inside or outside the company in a digital workspace are part of their daily routine.
Digital workplaces, the cloud, shared storage, messaging applications, video conferencing platforms, collaboration software: all terms that have become almost commonplace in the corporate world, where hybrid work is becoming the norm.
Professional relations are now dominated by immediate exchanges and the sharing of information. The result: a melting pot of ideas and increased competitive spirit and involvement among employees. In addition, collaboration tools make it easier to deal with emergencies and impromptu changes.
In short, collaborative working becomes synonymous with creativity and flexibility.
What are the objectives of collaborative working?
We have already touched on the advantages of collaborative working, both for the employee and the company. Let's go further by examining its objectives in depth.
Thanks to collaboration tools, employees are not only more involved in projects but are also more empowered. They often exchange "as equals" among themselves: each one is just as legitimate as another member of the group in their contribution.
A competitive spirit and creativity are matched by mutual trust and recognition. This team cohesion is expressed in different ways:
- An excellent work atmosphere
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Constant sharing of information and knowledge
This pooling of knowledge and know-how is stimulating; it leads employees to gain technical skills but also to improve their soft skills. Indeed, working with several people on a recurring or even daily basis leads to improved communication skills, mental flexibility and open-mindedness.
What are the differences between cooperative and collaborative working?
This may come as a surprise, but collaboration and teamwork do not necessarily mean collaborative work... We come to another concept: cooperative work.
As in collaborative work, the collective intention to complete a task underpins cooperative work. However, there are considerable nuances.
Within the framework of cooperative work, the verticality of relationships is not completely erased. The team remains under the supervision of one or more of its members, who act as project leaders. The tasks of each person are hierarchical and placed under the responsibility of a specific person or group of people. In addition, there is a clear division of tasks for each employee.
In summary, cooperative work is defined as the accumulation of individual activities. Collaborative work, on the other hand, involves more fluidity and permeability.
What are collaborative workspaces?
As you can see, the quality of the exchanges and the mix of participants are the foundation of collaborative work. However, the traditional organisation of a company's premises, marked by the partitioning of offices, is not conducive to spontaneous communication and discussions between employees from different departments.
The oldest and most common solution to this problem is to open up the offices, i.e., to opt for open space. Other types of facilities are increasingly being added to make interactions more fluid and freer. Comfortable relaxation and rest areas, cubicles and meeting bubbles (soundproofed booths for quiet concentration and discussion) enrich and structure the open space.
Outside the company, coworking spaces are also excellent spaces for collaborative work. As we have seen, these shared offices encourage the "cross-fertilisation" of ideas and make it possible to create links with other professionals.
How is collaborative working organised?
Aligning corporate culture and collaborative work
Converting your staff to collaborative working cannot be improvised. Here are some essentials:
- Ensure that collaborative working methods are in line with the company's objectives and strategy.
- Agree to move away from the classic pyramidal structure to make room for more horizontal exchanges, which implies a profound change in the hierarchical relationship.
- More generally, aligning the culture and values of the organisation with the mindset needed to work well together.
The idea is to remove barriers to unblock communication, encourage informal and open discussions, but also to make everyone aware of their creative potential in the company.
It's essential to train managers and employees
Managers appear to be on the front line as they must foster synergies by making the work environment more flexible. Delegating, bringing people together and encouraging team cohesion are clearly taking precedence over the more traditional tasks of managing, steering and validating the various tasks carried out by employees in a compartmentalised manner. The manager, more than a leader in the strict sense, becomes a guide, a facilitator.
Collaborative working therefore implies changes in traditional practices, and in turn in managerial skills.
For most managers, being able to take on this new role requires training. They need to develop both their hard skills (particularly in terms of mastering digital tools) and their soft skills, focusing on communication, organisation and delegation of tasks.
The introduction of collaborative working also requires preparing all employees, who naturally also see their working methods change. Above all, it is a question of ensuring that they have the skills expected to work well in a group. The use of training is therefore essential. It is also necessary to rethink the evaluation of employees in the light of these new skills.
The digital workplace, essential for the development of collaborative work
The final step is to implement a collaborative activity in practice. As we have seen, this involves in particular the provision of collaborative workspaces, via the reorganisation of the open-plan office and coworking. For remote exchanges, which have become the daily routine for almost all employees, the use of a collaborative portal is essential. Also known as the digital workplace, it is a unified online workspace, as mentioned earlier. Microsoft Teams is an excellent example of this.
Based on these findings, Rise Up has developed its services and now its LMS is integrated directly into Teams. In other words, employees and managers can learn at any time, while remaining "connected" to their professional ecosystem and continuing to collaborate with their colleagues.
Support teams in the transition to collaborative work
The deployment of collaboration tools and the acquisition of new reflexes in everyday professional activity make it necessary to support employees. In addition to training, top management and human resources must work in three directions:
- Communicate and promote collaborative working as a strategic matter in the life of the company.
- Take a pragmatic approach to collaboration, encouraging experimentation and practice via collaborative platforms. This approach will complement the more theoretical learning from the training course
- Encourage collective initiatives throughout the development of the project and carry out progress reviews to adjust the working method if necessary.
What are the limitations of collaborative working?
It is important that companies take into account collaborative work. Despite its many strengths, it does have some pitfalls.
Firstly, employees may put undue pressure on themselves as they feel that they have a greater responsibility than when they perform their tasks on their own. As a result, they seek to work faster and faster and constantly challenge themselves.
Conversely, collaborative work sometimes leads to social laziness: some individuals make less effort in a group setting.
Finally, the disadvantages of collaborative working include the potential imbalance between personal and professional life.
Why promote collaborative work in companies?
This style of working is gaining recognition because of its positive impact on the company. Team cohesion and employee skills are strengthened, while projects progress more quickly and benefit from the creative potential of employees with different profiles. The social climate improves as a result of the many exchanges and the trust that everyone has in the other members of the group. In addition, collaborative working leads to better time and cost management. One of the obvious reasons for this is the removal of geographical barriers: there is little or no need to travel, as communication takes place at a distance.
The benefits of collaborative working do not end there, as we will see now...
Save time and improve productivity
The time savings and productivity gains are significant when a company switches to collaborative working. A more flexible hierarchy removes possible blockages and makes exchanges more fluid and rapid. In addition, communication is spontaneous and transparent.
Thanks to online collaborative workspaces, everyone has the same information, and all knowledge is accessible in a single place. The problems that are often found in email exchanges (misunderstandings, segmented communications) disappear.
Finally, among employees, a competitive spirit is fostered among members of the same work group, which pushes them to be even more productive.
Capitalising on collective intelligence
Brainstorming, exchanging freely, sharing knowledge, pooling ideas.... Basically one of the greatest pluses of collaborative work is disrupting more solitary ways of working that can hinder the flow of messages and make work grind to a halt.
This therefore promotes collective intelligence. Thanks to collaboration tools, global thinking is accelerated: employees can bounce ideas off each other, since they're in close contact much of the time. Everyone's skills are put into action, a dynamic is created, and individuals go even further in their thinking. Collective action is therefore much more effective than working alone.
Improving wellbeing at work
In a post-crisis context, companies are particularly attentive to Quality of Working Life (QWL). However, collaborative work is a means of development.
Working together on a project, breaking down hierarchical barriers, communicating freely: this is an approach that eases tensions and values and recognises the professional qualities of each employee. Mutual support, cohesion, commitment and, as a result, well-being at work are clearly valued. Employees are more motivated, find meaning in their tasks and feel better.
Organising work and more effective project management
Instant, seamless exchanges, information accessible by all in the same place, constant visibility of progress: these specific features of collaborative platforms lead to better organisation and easier and more fluid project management.
With collaborative work, coordination and synergies between teams are much more natural. Employees spontaneously contact their colleagues to advance group work.
Finally, evolving within collective workspaces leads to greater responsiveness. This means that if there are any changes or "surprises" throughout a project, employees can quickly correct them or make the necessary changes.
At the end of this analysis, the value of collective working in companies seems obvious. So organisations that have not yet made the transition, now is the time to get ready! The result is valued and motivated employees, a healthier and more relaxed working environment, fast-moving projects and employee loyalty.