Stop! Collaborate and listen

Collaboration is fundamental to the development of ideas and projects in businesses across the board. COVID-19 has made this difficult, thanks to the number of people working from home, but there are solutions, and OP dealers have a part to play.

The old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ may be cliché but, as with all clichés, there is more than an element of truth in it. And so it is in business – collaboration between people, and in teams, is vital to the sharing and development of ideas, no matter what sector they operate in.

However, traditional office-based meetings and workshops – which have been a staple for generations – are now often no longer practical; many people are working from home, and those who remain in the office are currently subject to social distancing rules. Nevertheless, collaboration is still needed to ensure projects are brought forward to fruition and developments are secured.

The scale of the problem was highlighted by a recent GFK survey which revealedthat 55% of people said they found it more difficult to collaborate with people they usually see in the office from a home office environment, although 31% of people said focusing, and preparing for a meeting, was easier to do from home for the same reasons.

3M has predicted that office locations, size, purpose, activities and environment will change dramatically over the next five years; offices could remain as hubs where senior managers are based, with employees travelling in once or twice a week to meet with their bosses.

That said, 3M say collaborative workplaces are increasingly favoured among employees and pave the way to more effective interaction between colleagues and increased idea-sharing. There are various products available to help enable effective home working and collaboration, such as Post it Notes, meeting charts, notepads and writing instruments, says a spokesperson for VOW Wholesale.

Establishing an openly creative culture, where all ideas are acknowledged, will encourage employees to collaborate and innovate, while involvement and transparency from the top-down is essential in motivating employees to engage with one another.

Collaboration between home and office workers should be encouraged by giving everyone appropriate technical support in order to make it quick and easy for everyone to participate and share ideas, according to VOW.

“In Microsoft Teams, for instance, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be edited directly within Teams once uploaded,” the spokesperson said. “This allows teams to view, edit and collaborate in one, centralised file. Give the people the tools they need to do the job.”

Digital transformation

Cameron Mitchell, head of sales (partner channel) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd, agrees. “Digital transformation has been quietly revolutionising the workplace for several years but, as people return to work in the wake of the global pandemic, the digitally-connected office has become essential in helping companies to foster a collaborative environment, particularly as demand grows for agile hybrid working practices. 

“Even before the COVID restrictions, technology advancements and refreshed expectations from a younger generation had already resulted in office space being empty for larger parts of the week. Dealers must cater for customers seeking agile solutions to provide workplace transformation, delivering technology – such as document management solutions – to help employees stay connected, even if they are scattered geographically.

“Konica Minolta and our channel resellers work closely together to help customers in their workplace transformation and journey to the intelligent connected workplace. This approach is perfect for addressing ongoing barriers, such as time and travel constraints, but also ideal for overcoming similar challenges presented by social distancing restrictions.

“To meet the needs and expectations of both office and home-based workers, dealers need to ensure their customers have solutions that deliver agility, and also data security. Examples of relevant solutions include document management, data capture, workflow automation and print management, and also products that can help improve the customer experience – for example SMS messaging solutions.

“Ultimately, work is no longer a physical place or time; it is about connecting people with workspaces and technology to allow them to operate with agility, accessing information from disparate locations to make decisions faster.”

Safe working

Jeff May, UK sales director at Konftel, adds that offices are being reorganised to create more space for meetings and enable more video conferencing. “It’s important to fully-prepare for the next phase of COVID recovery, combining a mix of home working and phased office life,” he says.

“Our working world has undergone dramatic changes, with video and audio conferencing playing a frontline role. With the vaccination rollout going well, organisations need to start preparing for people to return to offices in a limited way – while also ensuring they have high quality equipment to continue working from home.”

No-touch solutions

Jeff adds that, when people return to the office, it won’t be ‘business as usual’. This is something businesses will have to factor in – and dealers should look to offer products to help. “Safety and social distancing will be vital when more people return to offices,” he says. “No-touch solutions will be increasingly popular.

“Take our Konftel Unite app for example. It switches the operation of audio-based meetings from the traditional keypad to the screen of a mobile ‘phone or tablet, easily, via Bluetooth. Konftel has always argued for flexibility when it comes to all the collaboration tools available, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex.

“Safety is paramount too. At the office, Bring Your Own Meeting means the user can take their own laptop into the meeting room, with their choice of collaboration app installed, and then connect to the speakerphone, conference cam and screen using a single USB cable.

“In addition, the Konftel 800 audio device can be daisy-chained to significantly increase the distance between people, while ensuring they are still clearly heard, even in the biggest of rooms.”

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