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Collaborative Work: Making It Happen

5 min read

The past years have led to an unprecedented cultural shift in the working world. Now, Collaborative Work is more important than ever. Read on to find out why this new way of collaboration doesn't just present challenges but brings a multitude of advantages.

Why Collaborative Work has become an essential part of today's world

Whether in law firms, public authorities, banks, development and research institutes, agencies, or consultancies: Since the start of the pandemic at the beginning of 2020, our working world has changed more drastically than ever before. While working from home was frowned upon in many companies until then, it suddenly became a necessity. And even if this need no longer exists now, the years that followed have led to a fundamental change in working culture across all industries.

For many employees, working from home has led to an improved work-life balance, as there is no commute to work and more time is available for family and personal interests. At the same time, many companies are increasingly promoting flexible working models and enabling employees to work from anywhere. Not only in the home office but often from anywhere in the world.

However, one thing has become more difficult since then: Collaborative Work. Communication has increasingly taken place via digital channels, more and more meetings are being held virtually via video calls and new forms of document processing are being used. This also means more need for coordination, especially concerning shared time slots. Spontaneous agreements, feedback, or brief inquiries across the desk are no longer as easy when an employee is working from home, the boss works from the office, the freelancer is in a co-working space in Bali and you may be on the train.

The Advantages of Collaborative Work

However, when approached correctly, Collaborative Work offers several advantages. Firstly, it enables the seamless exchange of ideas, resources, and knowledge between team members, regardless of their location. This not only promotes productivity but also creativity within the team. Secondly, improved communication and a free flow of information help to minimize misunderstandings and help teams react more quickly to changes. Taken together, Collaborative Work can achieve better quality results, speed up processes, and reduce the error rate.

But wait a minute. Isn't Collaborative Work just a new term for teamwork? Almost. Collaborative Work primarily emphasizes the idea of working together and sharing information and resources to achieve a common goal. The focus is on pooling knowledge and skills to fully exploit the creative and innovative potential of a team while improving communication at the same time.

On a day-to-day basis, this means that team members can freely exchange ideas and resources to develop innovative solutions. Collaborative Work is often more flexible and encourages team members to think outside the box.

Nowadays, however, one no longer sits with others at a large table like they used to at school or university to - put simply - draw together on a large sheet of paper, exchange ideas, and have lively discussions. At home, in the office, on the train, or in Bali. And it's not just different locations and time zones that make it more difficult for teams to work together in real-time.

Collaborative Work: Challenges

Employees are often faced with the same problem: Where do I find what I was looking for? What did I discuss with colleague X a few days ago and was it in the chat app, by email, or in a document? And where can I find this document once again? In the email history in my already overcrowded inbox or a cloud folder? It's not uncommon to use five or six different programs that have to be opened and searched through one after another and to communicate on three different channels at the same time. Sounds familiar? Then keep reading. Not only does this waste a lot of time, but it's also unnecessarily annoying, and it can be avoided.

Perhaps you have also experienced that building trust can be more difficult, especially in virtual teams, as you don't know each other on a personal level. And this can influence the team dynamic. On top of this, different communication styles, opinions, and approaches can make Collaborative Work more difficult in purely remote teams. This often results in misunderstandings and confusion. Particularly in large global teams, cultural differences in communication and collaboration expectations can lead to conflicts. Dealing with these requires skill and empathy.

There is also the challenge of knowledge management. Collecting and sharing information as well as centralized management within a team can be difficult. Ensuring that relevant information is easily accessible and understandable is often no easy task. The same applies to coordination: Especially if tasks and responsibilities are not clearly defined, the coordination of activities and tasks within the team can be very complex. It is not uncommon for team members in collaborative environments to be confronted with a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, which can lead to overload and inefficient multitasking.

The issue of data security and data protection is another major concern for many as gaps can always occur when information and documents are shared. It is essential to protect not only employees' personal data but also sensitive company data.

Last but not least, the use of collaborative tools and technologies can be associated with technical problems, such as unexpected system failures or difficulties in integrating different tools.

You see, even though we have been working together digitally and collaboratively for several years now, sometimes things still don't run smoothly. As every organization is different, many of these challenges are only noticed during a project. Spontaneous changes and the introduction of new collaborative tools in turn require effective change management to ensure that team members accept and adapt to these changes.

Of course, that sounds like a lot of problems. However, not working collaboratively is no longer an option in today's world. The good news is that many of these challenges can be solved by choosing the right tools. It is important, however, that there are not too many different ones, but ideally all-in-one solutions.

Five tips to succeed in Collaborative Work

Technical tools are a great help in making work processes smoother and easier. However, whether teamwork or collaborative work: The most important thing remains the human touch: To conclude, we would therefore like to look at a few aspects that go beyond technology:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of Collaborative Work. It's not just about exchanging information, but also about listening and understanding. Because only open and transparent communication creates an environment in which ideas can flow freely.

Team culture has a significant impact on collaboration. Team members should always feel safe to express their opinions and put forward innovative ideas without fear of criticism. So make sure to foster openness, trust, and mutual respect in your team.

A shared understanding of goals and priorities is essential. Your team members need to know what is expected of them and how their work contributes to achieving these goals. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and ensures a clear focus.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and understand their needs and perspectives. It is crucial for avoiding conflict and creating a positive working environment. Yes, you guessed it: Teams that promote empathy tend to be more effective and happier. This also includes the ability to give and receive constructive feedback. Thus, hold regular feedback sessions with your team to encourage improvement.

The right technical tool for Collaborative Work is half the battle

Collaborative Work is not just a trend but offers many advantages - provided a few points are taken into account and the technical infrastructure is right. Increasing productivity, creativity, and innovation, speeding up processes, improving communication, and promoting team culture: You shouldn't leave all of this out in the cold.

Project management tools are a great help in making workflows smoother and simpler and help you to put collaborative working into practice.

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Cristian Mudure
About the Author:
Cristian Mudure is the Founder and CEO of Stackfield. He loves digital business models and spends his spare time on the tennis court.
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