Jun 24 2021

How Remote Work Is Changing Collaboration

Remote work is here to stay, but it requires an evolution in communications frameworks.

The crisis pressures of the pandemic are ebbing, but remote work is here to stay for many businesses, with 55 percent of employees confident that working from home is an effective model for their industries. As noted by Forbes, companies such as Twitter, Dropbox and Slack have already made the move to permanent remote work options for staff, while businesses like Ford, Google and Microsoft have opted for a hybrid approach.

To support this effort, communication is key — so, it’s no surprise that adoption of collaboration solutions has seen rapid acceleration during the pandemic. As remote work moves from stopgap to standard operating procedure, a commensurate shift in collaboration technologies is required to deliver consistent communications on-demand.

READ MORE: Learn why companies are integrating phone service with their collaboration platforms.

The Current State of Collaboration

While collaboration platforms have been making market inroads over the past several years, COVID-19 conditions have supercharged solution adoption. “The collaboration and communication landscape is more important than ever, with the majority of organizations transitioning to a hybrid workforce that includes a large population of permanent telecommuters,” notes Josh Hamit, CIO of Altra Federal Credit Union in Wisconsin and a member of the Emerging Trends Working Group for IT industry association ISACA.

Hamit says that some organizations are apprehensive about how the shift to permanent remote work will impact both workplace culture and their ability to deliver an effective analog of in-person collaborative communication. This has created incentives for technology providers to innovate.

“It’s evident that all the big players in unified communications recognize that the complacent platforms of yesterday are no longer going to suffice in a post-COVID world,” he says, “so, we’re seeing a rapid acceleration that is leading to some extremely creative innovations.”

Providers Are Infusing Collaboration Solutions With AI

With many collaboration tools already offering options to streamline communications, what does this innovation look like in practice?

Hamit points to current efforts in machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate key operations and make collaboration happen anytime, anywhere. And while he notes that “we have a long way to go when it comes to incorporation of AI into collaboration for employees,” he highlights three areas of potential benefit:

  • Customer-facing chatbots. “We’re making a lot of advances in the use of machine learning and AI to automate conversations with consumers using chatbots,” says Hamit. “Done well, chatbots can field the routine, easy-to-handle interactions that free up staff to deal with more complex issues.”
  • Augmented employee experience. There’s also a role for emerging AI-driven collaboration to augment the employee experience. According to Hamit, “we’re already seeing this to some degree with real-time language translation and transcribing.” More advanced algorithms could help improve accuracy and speed.
  • Enhanced operational workflows. “Think about all the little mundane things we do throughout the day that add up to a lot of time,” says Hamit. “Now, imagine a future where you’re talking with someone about a meeting with various stakeholders and your virtual assistant is simultaneously looking for available time and setting up the meeting in the background. There’s a real opportunity here for AI to help us all work a little smarter.”

LEARN MORE: Discover how UCaaS helps organizations support the workforce of the future.

Collaboration Platforms Are Getting Easy to Use

Hamit also points to shifts within the collaboration industry itself that focus on simplicity and scalability for enterprises.

Collaboration platforms “are becoming increasingly easy and intuitive for the average user, even borderline simple. The UI/UX is no longer intimidating and challenging to navigate,” he says. “Even the platforms themselves are much more resilient and forgiving with the wide range of Internet connections and variables involved with a distributed workforce.”

Cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), meanwhile, is critical to helping companies meet the scalable needs of staff working from home full or part time. According to Hamit, “UCaaS will continue to gain momentum as organizations look for solutions that are easily scalable and better support the mobile work-from-anywhere user. Looking out further into the future, perhaps there’s a collaboration play for incorporating virtual/augmented reality for an even more immersive experience.”

Permanent remote work is changing the nature of collaboration. From AI-enabled chatbots and automated workflow to simplified and scalable UCaaS platforms, the next generation of on-demand collaboration platforms goes beyond basic communication to deliver comprehensive connected experiences.

Getty Images/ vichie81

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