2020 has certainly been a momentous year for everyone that has restructured how our society functions. Practically overnight, many of us were displaced from our regular lifestyle and had to adapt to a new way of balancing work and life from home. As a result, our reliance on technology only increased. Many organisations scrambled to figure out how to communicate and collaborate effectively without anyone being in the same room as each other, perhaps for the first time.

However, is it possible to collaborate with your company in a way that not only streamlines communication processes, but also increases engagement and teamwork within your organisation? The short answer is yes! Technology has increasingly been transforming and benefiting the workplace over the last few decades, particularly since the 2000’s. Below we’ve listed 5 easy ways to use technology in your workplace that will increase employee engagement and collaboration not just during the pandemic, but even into the future.

1. Connect with Video

When working remotely, it’s perhaps easiest to communicate purely in written form using instant messaging (IM) or emails. While being easy, it is one of the LEAST bonding and personalised forms of communication as it is often hard to convey tone and body language through words exclusively. One study showed that participants bonded most effectively with others in person, followed by video chat, audio chat, and IM in that order. For many of us, in person communication has been limited this year and thus, video chatting is the next best thing we can do for emotional connectedness.

Video chatting is also better for mental health. Another study demonstrated that those who video chat often are half as likely to develop symptoms of depression compared to those who used email, social media, instant messaging or no form of digital communication at all. Not only this, but video chatting can make communication easier with options such as recording conversations, screen sharing and breakout rooms for larger meetings. So make sure you video chat with your coworkers if you can’t see them in person, because not only will it help you form better emotional connections with your coworkers during this crazy time, but will also make you less susceptible to mental illness. Amazing!

2. Virtual Team-Building

Just because your team may not be working together in one location, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun together! Here at Magical Learning, we all work remotely around Australia and may only meet up 4 times a year physically as a company. Despite this, we remain very close in terms of our relationships because we spend time together outside of “work hours”; playing games online or even just having virtual ‘Friday drinks’. Despite team-building activities typically being done in person, online games and video chats still help to improve engagement and collaboration because they improve communication, trust in one another, problem solving, creative thinking, and can help break the ice for those of us who have forgotten how to talk to other people since COVID-19 hit!

By improving trust and communication within your team, statistically you will see improvements in your team’s collaboration and their engagement with the job. Having employees who feel engaged and happy in their job (only 13% of employees globally) have many organisational benefits, including high-trust teams having a 21% higher profitability than low-trust teams. If you trust the team you work within and feel trusted by them, your engagement and collaboration will increase, so go have fun with them! Some team-building games we recommend are jackbox.tv, It’s Quiz Time (found on PS4), Houseparty, or simply share your screen and watch a TV show together!

3. Invest in a Team Collaboration Portal

Having all of your company’s chats and files in as few places as possible will help set you up for success. At Magical Learning, we use Microsoft Teams and Sharepoint for company communication and document sharing. Additionally we use Align for our weekly huddles, assigning tasks to others and creating and monitoring personal tasks. These platforms help streamline communication and collaboration as each person in the company is able to access and edit any document uploaded by another team member whenever they need, saving time and frustrations. Not only this, but in our weekly huddles we will use video chat on Microsoft Teams so we can all see each other’s lovely faces. We also take the time to share good news (personal and professional) with the others. By doing this, we also strengthen our relationships with each other, but also by celebrating each other’s achievements, we are also increasing employee engagement by reinforcing our company values and culture.

4. Collect Feedback

Employees that feel their voice is heard and valued by their organisation will statistically outperform employees that feel neglected and undervalued. A great way to do this is to seek your employee’s feedback about various aspects of the ‘workplace’ through either video calls (as it is the best form of non face-to-face communication) or by running online surveys about your employees’ experience. One online survey showed 90% of employees believe that decision-makers should seek the opinions of others before making a final decision, yet 40% of employees believe that the decision-makers of their company “consistently fail” to seek another opinion.

Clearly these statistics show that employees want to collaborate with the top management of their company to improve the workplace for everyone. Employees who feel their voice is heard are also 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work, which means you are far more likely to have engaged employees if they feel their opinion matters. This also has other benefits including: helping reduce staff turnover, making employees more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work, and helping your company improve from the bottom up. Lower level employees can provide great insights into how your company can function better, so make sure you get their feedback!

5. Keeping Flexible and Remote Working as an Option in the Future

One of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 on the workplace was that so many people had to (at least temporarily) work from home. But is WFH expected to stick around on a more permanent basis? The short answer is yes; a 2016 study found that almost 80% of respondents aged between 28-35 reported that they desired the option to work remotely. A seperate study found that 87% of employees expect their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments. Moving forward, companies will therefore need to open up flexible working for their employees if they want to have the competitive edge when recruiting and retaining employees. Adaptable companies are the ones that will flourish in the future, so ensuring that your company can offer flexibility (using technology) will keep your employees engaged, keep them collaborating, and keep your profit margins up!

Tell us what YOU think in the comments below!