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3 Thoughts On: Remote Collaboration


Sinah |

01. Jul 2020 |

- min Lesezeit

3 Thoughts On: Remote Collaboration
A warm welcome to the new episode of our series "3 Thoughts On" – in times like these we don't want to miss the opportunity to show you how we think about working remotely and highlight our key takeaways from conducting remote workshops.

No doubt Corona has become the dominant topic of 2020. While the virus and the correlating politics have had tremendous impact on everybody’s private life, the business world too has been affected by considerable change. Especially in Germany, where home office has long been regarded critically, companies across all industries were forced to accept existing but yet unexploited means of collaboration. A glimpse into a more remote, more flexible and self-organized work life? At DPM we experience the perks of collaborating remotely as well as the downsides of lacking direct human interaction. Despite the two sides of the coin, here comes our advocacy for virtual workshops and remote collaboration as indispensable parts of future business life.

1. Collaborating remotely: the new standard?

Thinking back on the past few months, it seems like home office and remote meetings have become the new normal. For companies, which do not rely on products and services being produced or executed manually, it has been the only way to keep their businesses running during the pandemic crisis. Yet, it didn’t need a virus for organizations worldwide to acknowledge remote teamwork as a valuable addition to on-site collaboration: based on a survey by Owl Labs from 2019, 16% of global companies conducted their business fully remote and at least one home office day per week was granted to 52% of worldwide employees. And while other findings of that survey highlighted the positive effects of remote work (e.g. better work-life balance, increased productivity, less stress, lower turnover rates, etc.), we were still far from experiencing equally distributed acceptance for home office in the beginning of 2020. Has this changed? Indeed, the enforced home office situation seems to have served as a wakeup call, from which there is no return to the previous duty of working purely on-site. New surveys reveal how employees claim the right for greater flexibility at work and how companies are willing to embrace corresponding solutions. Most likely, the trend will go towards hybrid solutions that give room for both: working from home and physical offices – depending on individual preferences and the type of work to be done.

2. Remote workshops: no boundary for ideation

In light of these changes, the past months allowed for a great trial period of experimenting with different tools and methods in order to organize remote collaboration. At DieProduktMacher conducting remote workshops with several clients has revealed it doesn’t require direct human interaction to gather promising ideas and concepts to meet future challenges. In fact, virtual rooms can even lower the psychological barrier of an active contribution in a meeting that involves many colleagues. The advantage: people, who are normally too shy to speak up in front of bigger groups, feel more relaxed to bring in their own thoughts and positions. No surprise that one of the participants declares:

“One thing that surprised me was that it doesn’t really require to bring people into a room in order to be productive. The format was pretty new to me and the productivity or outcome level was higher than expected. To be honest, nearly the same or even higher level than offline workshops.”

Within our workshops we could observe an even greater contribution the smaller the group was. And which mean is better to achieve this than a breakout session? This feature offered by the video conferencing tool Zoom has proven to be of great value, as it allows for splitting up the workshop participants into smaller sessions to work on individual topics or to have a different focus per session. Using the collaborative whiteboard platform Miro each team was able to work on one specific part of the board until we would gather to one big group again and present all workshop results at the end of each workshop day. Considering the promising results from all our remote workshops and the fact that workshops often involve people from different locations, conducting them remotely offers the additional advantage of organizing them fast and at low cost and effort. No doubt, remote workshops will play an even greater role, when working with our customers in the future.

3. Always good to have an icebreaker

Although we outlined a variety of benefits remote workshops offer, there is always also a downside to it. Imagine you bring many people into one virtual room, who haven’t necessarily met each other before. Would you expect these people to immediately start interacting? Not really. While one can offer coffee breaks and activation exercises to live up the workshop on-site, it is harder to create a relaxed virtual atmosphere. Although more challenging, it is, however, not impossible. One key takeaway here was to plan for an icebreaker when kicking-off the workshop. This could be anything starting from a funny exercise to inviting one of the company’s customers to talk about pains and gains within the customer journey. Depending on how the participants of the workshop are composed, one icebreaker might be more appropriate than others, but overall it definitely helps people to feel at ease and more comfortable with the situation.

In short

To sum up, the ongoing pandemic crisis has enforced a stronger focus on remote collaboration. While its success got often questioned before, it is now more accepted than ever and will allow for greater flexibility in future work life. In this context, remote workshops are a valuable addition to on-site seminars and considering its benefits companies should no longer fear to even replace the one with the other.

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