2020 has changed the face of communication in business, school, and socially. We have been forced into a digital world that has impacted how we communicate with each other.
Communication in a digital world has to change if we are ever going to communicate effectively. We need to stop relying on Zoom meetings and calendar invites and get back to the unintentional conversations we as social creatures need.
Why Watercooler Chat is a Good Thing
South University recently wrote about the importance of social interaction. Research shows that having effective social interaction is not only beneficial for our mental health but to every aspect of it.
While many studies have been done on this subject, one stands out in particular. A study of incoming college students found social support was effective in reducing depression and stress (Cohen, Sherrod, & Clark, 1986).
Another study done in Almeda County, California found that people who were disconnected from others were almost three times more likely to die than people with strong social connections.
It is not just mental and physical health that is taking a hit though. Companies are now trying to assess if innovation has taken a hit as well.
Digital Communication and Innovation?
If you read the news headlines you will see praises for all the innovation in remote work and digital communication, but has innovation stopped in other industries as a result?
That really is the million-dollar question that many technology-first companies are asking. In a recent article from The Mercury News, that question was set out to be answered.
In an office, you can coral a couple of people and whiteboard out an idea. If the Idea is bad then you have wasted little energy and can move on. In the digital world, you are spending more time fleshing out ideas and putting the pitch together in a more final state. At that point, it has gone from an idea noodling around your head to a concept that you will put a lot more effort into defending.
Is that dangerous for innovation? It can be because the time spent on each idea becomes significantly more. If it is an idea not worth pursuing then it is wasted time.
Is Innovation Broken?
The short answer is no, but there is a bit more to it than that. Innovation is still occurring, just not at the speed we are used to.
Mainly because an idea on a whiteboard could be mapped out in minutes and discussed quickly and openly with the team. Now our ideas need the full PowerPoint treatment and a scheduled meeting. That takes time, effort, and energy that may not yield any results.
Putting on the “Show”
Let’s face it, at this point your inner teenager comes out every time a new meeting gets added to your calendar and you go, “uuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh!” Yep, I do it too! It is our response because we are tired of putting on a show for people and spending too much time preparing for that show.
Did you get the email about the meeting about the email?
Yes, it happened in the office too, but it is now happening even more often. We are not only having a meeting about it but there are 10 scheduling emails, 15 follow-up emails, and 2 more meetings.
This often causes disengagement before people even get to the meeting. That means that while you spend 3 hours preparing for it, some of the key players may already be disengaged with it or working on other tasks while they sit through “yet another zoom call”.
Shifting the Innovation Paradigm to Remote Work
For young workers, the paradigm has to shift or we may run into problems down the road. In the digital-first world, one of the concerns is that young workers will not have the same access to knowledge.
Yes, I know google exists, but it is not the same as knowledge gained from a mentor. The reality is problem-solving comes less from knowing how to swing a hammer and more from knowing where to hit and how hard to make it work the way you need it to. That is something that experience is a key driver for training.
Mentorship is still critical in our digital world. Problems often are like a puzzle and many times “been there, done that” can save the headache of going down a path that won’t work. As a result, you reduce the risk of spending significant time solving simple problems.
Using the Right Tools
The first solution to any problem is to get the right tools in place. In the current landscape, we are trying to use a screwdriver, when we should be using a hammer. This article is not all-inclusive but to get you thinking down the path. These tools can help your remote workers become more effective while they are working from their home office.
Tools like Zoom, Goto Meeting, Skype, and Microsoft Teams are all the rage. And rightfully so. They allow us to communicate through video in a reasonably effective manner. The one downside that none of them have overcome well is that interactions need to be scheduled, even if you are on the same team in the same company
Companies like Walkabout Workplace, Remo, Sococo, and Wurkr have entered the marketplace to change the game and create spaces that feel like a physical office with the ability to drop in and have a casual video chat with someone without having to send a link and schedule something.
Let’s face it, the millennial generation spends more time sending text messages and snaps than boomers do on the phone. Text messaging and instant messaging have become primary communication channels in many companies. If you have worked in the corporate world you have likely used a platform like Teams or Slack. They are great tools to ask a quick question from your team and communicate with question and answer style communication.
Yes, we have to mention this one, because it is still an important tool. There are still people that prefer to pick up the phone and have a quick conversation. Additionally, a phone number is often an easy thing to find, so if you are sales oriented it may be your primary mode of communication
This is a new tool that has really taken hold over the last few years. It allows you to collaborate with your team on a virtual whiteboard. Some of them even have templates for project planning, innovation, brainstorming, and more.
Document Collaboration tools
Microsoft Office introduced Office 365 a few years back in response to the Google Apps platform. Since then, both Microsoft and Google have been the gold standard in collaboration for documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. While others do exist, most companies are already using one of the 2 platforms.
This is often looked at as a waste of time in many companies but it is critical in maintaining culture and innovation. Companies like Happeo and Verint have created platforms that mimic social media for your intranet. This provides connectedness within your company and is an important part of building innovation.
Innovation Needs to Happen in a Different Way
Innovation occurs when teams can be agile and the process can adjust and change quickly. With the need to schedule every communication we are having with one another, Innovation in many industries has seen a slowdown.
Using new technology and tools will be critical as many companies are seeing the cost benefits of remote work teams. The biggest shift has to be adapting tools that allow for spontaneous communication. That means traditional online meeting platforms may not be the best answer.
For large companies with big budgets, they can host a whole bunch of tools, and resources. While that sounds great it can cause adoption rates to be slow and tools to be underutilized. The question then becomes, “Does it make sense to pay for all these tools?”
Small companies and Soloprenuers have a different problem. They don’t typically have the budget to host several tools to get the job done, nor does it make sense for them more tools than team members to communicate.
If you were paying close attention we already alluded to the answer. If you missed it that is ok too. We got you covered
All in one virtual office solutions are the answer that many are looking for. The pandemic forced a lot of these solutions out of the woodwork. They are now becoming more and more popular. By now might be asking, “What the heck is he talking about?”
These are online platforms that allow you to work in a virtual office where you can “walk down the hall” and meet with your teammates and colleagues. They define a single place to go to work, no matter where you are at in the world. What makes many of them even cooler, is the fact that you feel like you are moving from place to place even though you are in the comfort of your own home
These solutions not only work great for full remote teams either. I have seen hybrid and dispersed teams take advantage of these solutions and flourish in innovation..
If you have a team of 10 or more employees working from home, having your own virtual office space makes a lot of sense. The team can log in and “go” to work” from anywhere in the world and feel as connected as if they were in an office.
If your team is less than 10 there are still options. Co-working companies have been attempting to offer virtual offices for the last several years. They in our opinion have failed to deliver a truly effective solution because most are still centered around antiquated communication tools.
Co-Work Hub Virtual has Done it right
Co-Work Hub Virtual has done virtual co-working in a different way. They are the world’s first truly innovative virtual coworking space. They have worked with top vendors to bring tools and resources together to create a virtual office that is centered around individuals and small teams that need a sense of community with the feeling of going to work
The platform not only has the video tools you would expect from the likes of Zoom or Microsoft teams, but it has built-in chat tools, a virtual receptionist to greet your guests and customer, Conference rooms that host 30 video chats, and partnerships with VoIP phone service providers.
What makes the experience truly unique is the fact that like a physical co-working space you can collaborate with others in the space to learn and grow from each other. It is the interactive virtual space that will change how you do business.