Workplace Collaboration: Face-to-Face or Remote?

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People AnalyticsThree things will have a radical impact on the workplace in the next five years, according to Ben Waber, president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions — and the author of “People Analytics.”

  1. Face-to-face communication will accelerate performance
  2. Behavioral sensor data will increasingly influence everything from the office space to the org chart
  3. Digital collaboration tools will integrate seamlessly with our physical world

So what’s the best strategy to improve workplace collaboration?

“Rather than making decisions about the workplace based on gut instinct or what the latest management guru says is the right thing to do, companies should be using data to drive their decisions on collaboration,” Waber said. “Without data, you’re leaving your company’s future to chance.”

Some companies are slow to respond to the changing demands of the physical workplace. This can lead to concerns about lack of collaboration if too many employees decide they work better at home or at the local coffee shop.

That’s why John Arenas, CEO of Serendipity Labs, recommends that companies start with the premise that collaboration can’t be engineered, only supported.

“The most talented workers will make good choices about how, when, where, and with whom to work,” he said. “Collaboration will improve if you make good workplaces with a mix of spaces that support collaboration, casual interaction, and privacy.”

Brett Martin, founder and CEO of Sonar, said that investing in better technology and bringing together employees in the same physical space are equally important for workplace collaboration.

“Nothing beats putting a group of smart, motivated people in the same room,” Martin said. “But I think that better mobile communication tools will enable faster iterations in between in-office white-boarding sessions. We’re always working but that work will be increasingly integrated into the rest of our lives, enabling us to better enjoy our time away from the office while still getting things done.”

For Waber, face-to-face interaction and fresh perspectives are best found in his company lunch room.

“I love spending time in my company’s lunch room talking with my colleagues. It’s great to blow off a little steam, take it easy, and get a perspective on what’s going on in different areas of the company.”

In his view, this collaboration increases productivity.

“While some people might not think of that as work, that’s the most important part of my job.”

Waber, Arenas, and Martin will be at WORKTECH New York on May 15-16 to discuss how we will all work in the future — and how those changes can deliver greater productivity and employee satisfaction.


Work Design Magzine is a sponsor of WORKTECH’s thought-provoking conferences. For more information or to request a press pass, contact Isabel Dewhurst-Marks at [email protected]

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