Short on time? Explore the key takeaways:
- Remote work has become more efficient, but technology limitations can hinder productivity and collaboration.
- Communication methods have evolved from email to real-time chat and video conferencing.
- The quality of real-time collaboration services is a key metric when evaluating digital employee experience (DEX), with poor call quality and online collaboration fatigue standing out as top challenges.
- Technology tools can help organizations monitor and optimize collaboration and communication platforms and improve the employee experience.
Employees are far more efficient when working remotely than most business leaders imagined.
Even the most stalwart and traditional businesses now realize that a collaborative and productive workforce isn’t necessarily one that sits in a conventional office. Unfortunately, technology limitations can hinder productivity and collaboration and exasperate remote workers if not carefully managed.
Getting to the underlying cause of collaboration challenges may take some detective work. For example, consider poor call quality when using a collaboration platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This issue may originate from one or more sources, including the internet connection, the employee’s hardware (including headset and PC) or the specific platform used to collaborate. Before exploring solutions, let’s consider how collaboration and communication methods have evolved over the years and look at the most prominent modern challenges.
Evolution of collaboration
In the past, businesses relied on email to collaborate electronically, perhaps even more than the traditional telephone. There were major problems if email systems weren’t working correctly. One of the go-to measures to troubleshoot a problem was to look for an icon or error message in your mail client. This message would inform you of a lost server connection. Alternatively, people would call the intended recipient to see if their email made it through.
Fast forward to today, and employees are less reliant on email as a mode of communication. Rather than wait for a reply or get lost in email overload, many people now rely on real-time and synchronous collaboration experiences such as:
- Peer-to-peer VoIP calling
- Video conferencing
As these tools have evolved and people have grown more comfortable using them, workers have come to appreciate the advantages of chatting in real-time; for example, resolving customer issues without leaving the case or conversation by linking Teams chats directly to customer service records. In fact, for many, it is the preferred form of contact because it allows for communicating in the “here and now” as opposed to the “then and when.”
This brings us back to the topic at hand – improving collaboration for remote and hybrid workers. With so many reliant on collaboration platforms daily, organizations must keep them running optimally. Here are two of the most prevalent workplace collaboration challenges and their underlying causes.
Challenge #1 – Poor video and audio call quality
Our evolving work ethic means that the quality of your real-time collaboration platform is now becoming the de facto metric by which your end users measure the value of your IT service. Some could attribute this trend to cloud-based social media technologies that offer people multiple avenues to collaborate. Users of apps like Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp often select their preferred communication channels based on ease of use and quality of experience— and the same criteria translate when using enterprise tools, as well.
Regardless of the workplace collaboration platform, poor video and audio quality can result from:
- Poor internet connection on your side
- Poor internet connection of one of the other participants in a meeting
- External wide-area network (WAN) factors caused by weather and environmental outages
- Inadequate hardware, such as an underpowered laptop, webcam or headset/audio device
In the early days of the pandemic, there were reports of people suffering from a lack of cohesive contact with one another, relying solely on interactions through Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings. Those meeting experiences often ended up being more painful than they should have been due to poor video and audio quality. The frustration of enduring repeatedly poor communication experiences while in isolation contributed to the overall decline in employee mental health and wellness during this time.
Challenge #2 – Online collaboration fatigue
The feeling of exhaustion that comes from a day of back-to-back online meetings is so common, it has a name: Zoom/Teams fatigue. In the Unified Communications Management and Endpoints: 2021-22 study by research firm Metrigy, approximately 44% of companies reported that their employees experience video fatigue.
These challenges speak to the need to monitor how much time employees spend in virtual meetings and identify ways to prevent technology burnout. Modern communication, regardless of platform, can lead to a less collaborative or productive workforce if not used strategically. As employees and technology consumers move into a more permanent hybrid work model, the need for good telemetry and direction from IT stakeholders is paramount. Using the right tool for the right job is essential to remove barriers to collaboration. So is prioritizing the employee experience.
Collaboration platform support
Effectively managing collaboration and communication platforms can address the challenges of poor call quality and online collaboration fatigue. However, many organizations don’t have the budget to dedicate a full-time staff member to monitor these platforms. Existing IT team members are busy with other projects and can’t be pulled away to handle the myriad tasks necessary to manually optimize collaboration and communication platforms.
Fortunately, there are options that can simplify the effort. PowerSuite™ is Unisys’ cross-platform software suite that empowers IT teams to manage and secure collaboration and communications platforms, using predictive analytics to enable a seamless end-user experience.
Streamline the remote work experience
Remote and hybrid work is the new normal. Tools such as video conferencing and real-time communication have evolved, but come with their own challenges. To address them, it is crucial for businesses to prioritize the employee experience by ensuring their dispersed workforces can collaborate and communicate effectively.