Using collaborative tools to aid flexible working

Using collaborative tools to aid flexible working

Using collaborative tools to aid flexible working.

James Campanini is managing director of Cisco WebEx, a division of networking firm Cisco, that develops collaborative and web conferencing services for a range of companies worldwide.

The term ‘collaboration’ has been used in the world of business for many years, but more recently its use and meaning have evolved. We are now seeing more individuals and organisations using the word collaboration to encompass a wide range of meeting methods, whether face-to-face, via telephone or a virtual conference. This shift in definition is a direct result, and reflection, of the evolution in how we work.

From open-plan offices to working from home, our working lives have become much less restricted. The rise of multiple devices on which we can work, and the need to be able to access anything, anywhere and at any time has led to a demand for collaborative tools and techniques to accommodate the change. Being flexible in how we work has numerous benefits to our efficiency, accuracy and productivity. Many organisations are already well aware of this, implementing relevant collaboration tools at every opportunity, embedding them into their culture through training and a top down managerial approach. But some are falling behind.

So, for those of you who are hesitant to take the leap from a traditional 9-5 routine to one where employees are empowered with trust and freedom to collaborate through flexible working, see below for tips on how collaboration tools can help you and your business.

  • Help everyone understand - sharing what you can see with everyone else helps understanding. Being able to show your presentation as you talk through the slides ensures everyone is on the same page, focussed and following. As a result, meetings are more effective and participants are able to get the best from them, despite not actually being physically present
  • Collaborate in real time - making instantaneous decisions without the need to spend time and money travelling to and from meetings is invaluable to your individual efficiency and productivity. Adopting collaboration tools to host meetings regardless of where people are is an increasingly beneficial way of working for many individuals and businesses who work across groups, teams and with other regions across the globe
  • Collaborate up close with video conferencing - ‘I like to see the whites of their eyes’ is a phrase still frequently used in business. It’s no surprise then that over half (59 percent) of managers in a recent Cisco survey say their organisation prefers face-to-face meetings. While it is important for you to recognise a realistic, in-person meeting experience is important to ensure that encouraging smiles and eye contact are not missed, the use of video conferencing helps to achieve this without the need to be sat in the same room. Meetings with senior staff don’t have to be face-to-face; they’re not always practical and they take up more time - there are alternative solutions
  • Never miss another important moment - many tools have the facility to record, allowing you to listen and share meetings as required after they’ve happened. This allows you to focus on your meeting ensuring you are not distracted by spending your time frantically taking notes, which although useful, can be distracting, and draw you away from the meeting – only take notes of your own actions, and then you can listen to your recording later at your own convenience. The other benefit to this is if you are unable to take part in a meeting, the recording can be shared with you afterwards so that you don’t miss out on any discussions or decisions which may have been made
  • Make your online meetings mobile - with the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) boom, the ability to access meetings anywhere, at any time, on any device is a must. We are all too familiar with train delays, road closures and snow disruptions, and have come to realise that these aren’t acceptable reasons to miss important meetings or stop you from doing your job. With providers of collaboration tools offering a mobile friendly platform or app, it is now easier than ever to make your office mobile, hosting meetings while sat on the train, in the office of a client, or even on a sledge!

Gone are the days of regimented meetings which have to span an hour every single Friday morning. Employees are more demanding of a flexible work culture to fit in with their increasingly demanding lifestyles. Empowering staff with the flexibility to meet a deadline by allowing them to host a meeting while on the train or at home while waiting for the plumber to arrive will exponentially improve productivity and performance.

But it’s not just all about meetings. It’s important to understand how collaboration tools can greatly improve your ability to do your day job, wherever you are. Visibility is the key element that will ensure you are able to perform tasks efficiently and accurately through the use of collaborative tools. A flexible workforce is a happy, more engaged workforce, and businesses (of all sizes) will benefit from embracing and promoting a collaboration culture.

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