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There’s a 72% drop in face-to-face collaboration at work, so how can Australian businesses still harness group productivity?

By: Andy Hurt, Managing Director, Poly ANZ

A single great idea can change the world, but it takes many hands and minds working together to turn that great idea into a reality.

Looking at our workspaces today – this rings true. It’s rare to find an office now that isn’t open plan, designed to harness the power of many brilliant minds working together. Yet somehow, an environment that was meant to foster greater collaboration and communication has done just the opposite, with face-to-face collaboration having dropped by an astonishing 72 per cent [1].

The materialisation of flexible working seems to have had a similarly jarring effect on Australian businesses. Whilst some gains have been realised, major opportunities are still being missed to enable more efficient and productive work.

In order to capitalise on the potential benefits to the bottom line that these workplace trends can bring, businesses must offer employees the ability to work efficiently and collaborate wherever they are – from the train to the open office. Organisations need to be able to turn even the loudest spaces into sanctuaries for concentration, to deliver boardroom quality conferencing from homes or in unconfined spaces.

Resurrecting face-to-face communication

As human beings, we have been hardwired over thousands of years to communicate face to face, picking up on millions of verbal and non-verbal cues to determine meaning and context. But this kind of communication has become lost in the modern workplace, with open offices having become a breeding-ground for distraction and chaos. Workers are therefore being driven online in order to communicate – instant messaging application use has been shown to increase by 67 per cent in these open environments[2].

While collaboration technology such as advanced video conferencing systems can now closelyreplicate face-to-face interaction – they are not being properly utilised by Australian businesses. Less than half of Australia’s small meeting rooms – which are used by nearly 60 per cent of workers – are equipped with critical collaboration tools such as video conferencing[3]. Instead, sadly desk phones remain the tool of choice for two thirds of Australian businesses – the highest across the APAC region.

The right technology will enable businesses to create environments where a modern interpretation of face-to-face communication can flourish, and the real cost and innovation benefits of open offices be realised.

Flexible working gains – only the tip of the iceberg

Australian organisations have really come to the table to offer their employees work arrangements that better fit within their busy lifestyles. Over 70 per cent of Australian organisations now implement some form of flexible working strategy or policy[4].

Gains to staff satisfaction and wellbeing have been well documented, however it’s clear that businesses have not yet fully capitalised on the efficiency gains and cost benefits that flexible working can offer. Just as the concept of flexible working has penetrated the business psyche – equally so must the need for technology that facilitates effective collaboration, from anywhere and at any time.

Employees need the ability to communicate with their colleagues and stakeholders to work effectively and efficiently. They now need not only to be able to connect via phone or email but also through a suite of collaboration tools that provide the same level of connection as those used in offices if they are to be productive. This is no longer just a nice to have – it’s a necessity in all business types and sizes – from government bodies to design agencies.

The future of the world, as always, will be shaped by the communicators and collaborators. Developing new ways to hear, see, interact and work more easily in an increasingly digital world, through enhancements and innovation in collaboration technology, is an important step towards enabling the next generation to turn big ideas into world-changing realities.

[1]The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration, 2018
[2]The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration, 2018
[3]‘Growing Big Ideas from Small Spaces’ Huddle RoomReport, 2017
[4]Flexible working is good for business, 2019

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