Breaking down the barriers of time, place and space

Natalie Harris-Briggs  

If we asked some of the most successful business leaders to identify the biggest changes in the modern working environment, collaboration would undoubtedly be high on the list. There has been a distinct culture change in recent years, with a clear shift towards a more collaborative mind-set that has led to increased employee engagement and decreased rigidity in processes.

Even management culture has evolved, with forward-thinking businesses measuring success by their employees’ productivity and achievements, as opposed to presence in the office. Working norms are being challenged and for those companies that place immense value on collaboration, the workplace has become a fluid, flexible space encouraging interactivity, ideation and knowledge-sharing. So, when the survival of an organisation seems to depend on how effectively they operate as collaborative ecosystems, how can they continue to advance in the next few years and take collaboration to the next level?

Avocor recently produced a report in conjunction with Workplace transformationalists, The WORKTECH Academy which introduced a new concept known as ‘Fluid Collaboration’. Specifically, how we will see the trend of ‘collaborative working’ becoming even more embedded in organisations in the future. Predicting how collaboration will change during the next five years, the report identified key shifts in practice and critical success factors to enable businesses to develop collective solutions that will transcend ‘time, place and space’.

There are three key drivers shaping a new paradigm in collaborative work – changing demographics, the rise of sustainable cities and corporate space redesign. Firstly, the varying demographics have brought additional complexities for businesses, communication strategies now must be re-evaluated for each generation, particularly the millennials and digital
natives who will form the main employee base in the future.

The growth of sustainable cities is another major driver, as the environmental impact of doing business has been pushed into the spotlight, resulting in a marked increase in remote working solutions and virtual collaboration scenarios. Physical location is no longer an issue and this has opened up more opportunities in the global market place, changing the way people work with both colleagues and customers.

The most visual driver is the redesign of corporate spaces which has seen a dramatic decline in traditional office layouts. The possibilities for dedicated, high-and low-intensity collaborative spaces, particularly within the context of agile and activity-based working, have increased and physical boundaries dispersed.

Fluid Collaboration is seen as a coherent response to address these dramatic shifts and enable organisations to benefit from the innovative ideas that flow from better collaborative processes. There are four main elements to Fluid Collaboration:

1. Fluid Space - Developing new environments for complexity, modelling and immersion.·

2. Fluid Technology - Bringing an increase the interoperability of communications and collaboration platforms, allowing them to be accessed and used on any device, over any network and from any location.

3. Fluid Culture - Supporting a move away from paper to digital flow and introducing a new digital code of etiquette

4. Fluid Intelligence – Capturing feedback data from unified collaboration platforms to get a better insight into how the organisation really works.

Embracing fluid collaboration demands a combination of these different elements, however it does not require a massive step-change given that modern workplaces are already adopting a more flexible culture. Transcending ‘time, place and space’ is about recognising how the working world is changing and ensuring that the environment, technological tools and employee behaviour adapts accordingly. Even those with advanced collaborative environments need to continuously rethink how they approach team collaboration

Workplaces in the next five years will be more digitally-advanced environments that are dynamic, intelligent and forward-looking, supported by connectivity and technology that gives employees the freedom to collaborate with anyone, anywhere. Can therefore, organisations afford to ignore the principle of Fluid Collaboration and prepare their business and employees for life in the emerging modern workplace?

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