Workplace Collaboration Statistics: 2020 Business Insights

The modern workspace is changing rapidly as an increasing number of office workers turn their backs on work structures and practices inherited from the Industrial Era.

Millions of professionals around the world are choosing to improve their quality of life, and boost their income, by working from home, abandoning the daily commute and following flexible schedules.

These types of changes are reflected by the growth of the gig economy.

According to Forbes more than a third of workers in the United States have joined the gig economy – an economy driven by individuals generating income from flexible, short term job contracts.

This massive shift away from fixed, office-bound employment is being facilitated and encouraged by the parallel evolution of communications technology.

This has enabled people to collaborate without having to be in the same physical location, using a rapidly growing arsenal of communications tools.

At the same time as this new technology allows people to re-shape their work environments and collaborate remotely, sometimes over vast distances, human resources analysts are recognizing the immense importance of collaboration in producing successful business outcomes.

A growth in collaboration - business collaboration statistics

As recently as four decades ago the desk-bound telephone was the most effective real-time remote collaboration tool, with the cellular phone still in its infancy.

Today, the Internet combined with rapidly advancing smartphone, camera and computing advances has made real time collaboration possible through an ever-increasing selection of collaboration channels applications.

Technology that was portrayed in the science fiction series of the 1960s and 1970s is now in the hands of around 2.87 billion people across the globe – in the form of the ubiquitous smartphone.

And the business world and investors are lining up to utilize and invest in the fast evolving collaboration technology industry.

We find that:

  • According to Markets & Markets the online collaboration market will grow to $59.86 billion by 2023
  • The Synergy Research Group forecast that teamwork apps like SOPHY would lead the way in this space, with a forecast growth of a staggering 60% for the past year

To put these figures in context, a market of $58.86 billion is around a quarter of the Gross Domestic Product of New Zealand.

While this may appear modest in the context of the global economy, it bears repeating that we’re witnessing the first tremors in a seismic shift in the way people interact in the business environment.

For example, Bloomberg reports that the global video conferring market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% until 2025, growing that market to a value of $6.7 billion.

The extent to which this technology is penetrating the evolving agile labour market can be seen in statistics publishing in the 2019 LifeSize Impact of Video Conferencing Report, where it was indicated that 51% of workers had taken video calls for work from a home office while 33% had done so from a coworking facility.

As you might expect the statistics for non-video collaboration tools are even more impressive. A survey of 200 businesses of different sizes conducted by MOI indicated that 91% of IT managers used not one, but two team messaging apps in their business.

Meanwhile, Slack’s IPO filing report in 2019 indicated that that 600,000 companies make use of Slack’s team messaging app, including 10 million users in 150 countries. Venturebeat reports that half a million companies made use of Microsoft Teams as of 2019.

Although these figures are a fraction of the 5 million plus employer firms reported by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship council in 2016, it’s important to consider how rapidly use of these applications has grown in the short time they have been available.

And we’re still in the early stages of the communications and collaboration revolution. As virtual reality and augmented reality becoming cheaper, more sophisticated and more readily available, work and collaboration as we know it will change beyond recognition within the next two decades.

Collaboration is about more than bridging distances

An interesting feature of the rapid evolution of the digital collaboration market is that the demand for collaboration solutions isn’t only a product of the move towards decentralized work arrangements, where it bridges the distance between workers.

At the same time as collaboration technology has evolved to make it possible for individuals to work together from different sides of the world, there’s been a growing recognition of how important collaboration is for generating desirable business outcomes such as:

  • improved productivity
  • employee retention & satisfaction
  • achieving desired project outcomes.

An increasing number of analysts and thought leaders in the human resources space are emphasizing how important collaboration is to business success.

However, many businesses, including those where employees work together in a single location, fail to capitalize on the potential benefits of increased collaboration offered by collaboration tools.

For example, a study of employees born between 1980 and 2000 conducted by Queens University indicated that while 75% of respondents believed that collaboration was ‘very important’, 39% of them did not feel that there was sufficient collaboration within their organizations.

A survey of 1400 corporate executives undertaken by Salesforce further supports the importance, and absence, of collaboration, reporting that 86% of survey respondents believed that lack of collaboration had caused the failure of projects that they had worked on.

Critically, surveys have found that collaboration also has a direct impact on employee retention, and the costs associated with employee turnover.

A survey conducted by Accountemps indicated that a third of HR managers felt that communication breakdowns were the cause of low morale in companies.

Meanwhile Gusto, an employee health benefits and human resources solutions provider, found in its Employee Happiness Surveys found that the sense of community that collaboration creates led 52% of respondents to consider leaving their job where it was absent.

By contrast 55% of respondents reported that a strong sense of community led them to staying at their jobs when they should have left.

Here's how you can collaborate better

It’s clear that collaboration is not just desired by most employees, but also leads to improved business outcomes while keeping your business up to date with the evolution of the workplace.

Introducing improved collaboration to your team has three critical aspects:

  1. Recognizing the need for collaboration and improved communication at a leadership level
  2. Actively encouraging collaboration between members of your team
  3. Introducing suitable tools to facilitate collaboration.

Lead collaboration from the front

While it can be tempting to simply instruct employees to collaborate more, the reality is that collaborative efforts start from the top.

It’s not unusual for individuals in leadership or management positions to operate in silos, which can appear as lack of transparency to team members lower down the corporate hierarchy.

This has several negative consequences.

For a start absence of information creates a vacuum which is typically filled with gossip or idle speculation, which can damage team morale and relationships.

Lack of clarity of organization goals and progress can also have unforeseen consequences, as employees who do not have a clear idea of what impact their contributions are making are less likely to feel like they’re part of a team.

They’ll also be deprived of the sense of shared achievement that created when their company moves closer to, or achieves, a goal that they have contributed to.

Collaboration therefore starts with clear communication with employees. This does not mean sharing organizational secrets. Instead it means:

  • Defining and being transparent about what your organization’s goals are
  • Providing your employees with insight into the organization’s progress towards these goals
  • Communicating significant changes within the organization promptly and clearly
  • Follow any collaboration rules or processes you set up for your team yourself – lead by example.

Encourage collaboration between team members

Getting your team to collaborate requires that they first feel comfortable communicating openly and with their managers.

Encourage employees to approach their managers as soon as they experience significant challenges that affect their ability to meet their employment requirements.

This process can be facilitated by including discussions on collaboration in performance reviews and project meetings, where you can discuss the importance of collaboration and provide employees with an opportunity to communicate clearly on topics of importance to them.

The more channels of collaboration you open, the more likely collaboration is to take place. Formal face-to-face meetings such as performance or deliverable reviews have already been mentioned.

Providing communal areas where employees can informally discuss their work and brainstorm solutions to shared problems can also be highly effective in building a sense of belonging in a team and encouraging collaboration.

Finally, you’ll want to provide your employees with tools that require collaboration in order to move successful towards the completion of tasks.

This can be more complicated than it sounds…

Finding the right tools for collaboration

While you’re virtually guaranteed to benefit from the introduction of collaboration tools to your business processes, getting started isn’t easy.

For a start, the rapid growth of the collaboration technology market can lead to a severe case of overchoice.

Literally thousands of collaboration tools are available on the market, some designed for specific use cases, but many of which partially overlap each other in terms of the functionality they offer and use cases they can be applied to.

Another issue is that introducing these tools to an organization requires change management. Old processes must be re-shaped to accommodate them, while team members face a learning curve as they come to grips with the new technology. This takes time and energy.

And with the market for collaboration tools still in its infancy, it can be difficult to know whether you should pick relatively established software or become an early adopter of the next big thing.

To provide you with some options, we’ve put together an overview of the different types of collaboration tools out there, as well as popular choices within each tool category.

Task and workflow management

Task and workflow management applications are centralized, cloud-based tools for delegating and corresponding around tasks.

The primary benefit of these applications is that they provide real-time, transparent access to an organization’s workflow, allowing users to set, follow up on and complete projects and tasks from any online device.

This effectively limits the degree to which employees can operate in silos, whether working from your business premises or a remote location.

The type of application you use here depends to some extent on the complexity of your processes and projects, and how much functionality you want out of your application.
If you’re in favor of a lean approach to process management, then we’ll unashamedly punt SOPHY as the collaboration-based task manager of choice.

With a stripped-down interface, SOPHY makes it as easy as possible to set up tasks and task lists and delegate these to team members, while automating the task follow-up process. You can also upload files to tasks, leave comments on tasks and even complete tasks directly on email notifications.

If you’re a company working on multiple large projects, then a fully-fledged process management tool may be more appropriate for your requirements. Monday and Trello are two options, with both offering you the ability to set up workflows and task lists within multiple projects.

These are all freemium software products, offering quite a bit of functionality before you need to breach the paywall.

Messaging

Messaging apps have become part and parcel of daily life, and a critical part of business communication. Typically, you’ll need these in situations where the delays associated with email are not desired, or you want to have a real time conversation with a colleague or a client.

While it’s tempting to use the most familiar messaging app you have at hand to handle team communication, it’s inadvisable to use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or even Google Hangouts for your business communications.

Instead, a purpose-built application that ticks all regulatory boxes in terms of data and privacy protection is recommend.

A leading application in this department is Slack.

Slack is a freemium software product which offers free use its core features, which will cover the requirements of most businesses. It conveniently allows for private and group chats, and you can also have conversations on predefined ‘channels’ to which you can invite participants.

Slack also integrates with several other productivity and collaboration applications

Video conferencing

Messaging apps only take you so far. Particularly when interacting with clients, video conferencing and ‘face to face’ conversations can be critical to building trust and rapport while also providing you with all the visual cues you require for effective business communication.

There are several applications out there that can do the job. However, Google’s Meet is a simple, lightweight but effective video conferencing tool.

Apart from sending you meeting reminders via your mail client, it allows you to conduct video chats with several people at a time, and is able to sense which user is talking at any given moment, using this to display the user’s video stream as primary image on your device.

And using it is extremely easy. Click on a Meet invite in your Google Calendar or meeting reminder and the app will start up and you can opt into the meeting. Meet takes care of the rest. It’s also 100% free.

Collaborative file sharing and editing

File sharing apps are a critical part of any modern organizations collaboration toolset.
These allow different users to view, and work on, files in a variety of popular file formats simultaneously and in real time.

Google Documents is the clear winner in this department. You can create or upload documents or spreadsheets to the cloud, collaborate on these with any users you choose to share them with, and then download them in a variety of popular file formats if you require a hard copy of a file.

Google Drive works hand-in-hand with Google Documents, allowing you to create folders much as you would on desktop, load content into them and then share them using links, email notifications or both – while having full control over privacy settings.
Google Drive offers a limited volume of free storage before a modest monthly fee kicks in once you need to expand your cloud storage space. Both Documents and Drive can be accessed by simply signing up for a Google account.

We hope this article has helped provide perspective on where business collaboration is at in 2020, why it’s important and how you can improve collaboration within your own organization.

SOPHY is an easy-to-use task management application that was built to reduce the stress placed on the modern worker, while boosting productivity and organizational efficiency.

Collaboration is central to our design ethos, and we invite you to find out how SOPHY can help you structure your tasks, improve team collaboration and get things done by registering now.

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