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Hybrid working: starting in the workplace
Hybrid working: starting in the workplace

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7 Virtual collaboration in the workplace

Discussions about virtual collaboration in the workplace date back to the very beginnings of the internet (Cascio, 2000). However, recent years have seen a huge increase in remote/hybrid work, and the importance of virtual collaboration has since been redefined (Colbert et al., 2016; Ferreora-Lopes and Rompay-Bartels, 2020).

Virtual collaboration is no longer about simply communicating remotely. It involves shareable documents, collaborative tasks, and virtual content management. With the technology now available to us, we can now work on high-quality collaborative projects without the need for in-person meetings.

Collaboration is a key part of the workplace. For many people, the only way to effectively get work done is to partner with others. In a hybrid environment, it’s important for collaboration not to be impacted. Even if you cannot physically talk to someone, it should not stop your ability to effectively communicate and collaborate on projects.

Activity 11 What makes virtual collaboration challenging?

Timing: 5 minutes

Think about a time you have collaborated virtually on a project.

What worked well, what were the major challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

What would you do differently on similar projects in future?

Without effective collaboration, hybrid work can become dysfunctional. It is therefore imperative that you engage regularly with your team(s) and line manager. Many teams will have daily updates or ‘stand ups’, weekly meetings, and/or monthly reviews. If there are no organised opportunities for collaboration, you could try to create something similar yourself, for example scheduling regular updates with your team or communicating with a co-worker about any concerns you may have, or to ask for help with a task. Most importantly, be sure you know how to get in touch with people, whether that is through your organisation’s designated messaging systems, email catch-ups or weekly calls. In a traditional office, you would probably be having regular conversations – formal and informal – with others, so don’t let it be any different in the hybrid world. Without these interactions, burnout and loneliness could become a serious issue.

How exactly should this be done? The next activity offers some suggestions.

Activity 12 What makes virtual collaboration effective?

Timing: 15 minutes
  1. Read this Harvard Business Review article on 4 tips for effective virtual collaboration [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Saunders, 2020). Which of these do you think would be the most useful? Why?

  2. Make your own top four list for virtual collaboration. What four key things do you think would most help you succeed in any virtual collaborative task?

There are many ways in which colleagues in the virtual workplace will collaborate. Whether that be on video call, editable shared docs, or other collaboration tools. Many of these skills have already been mentioned, but don’t forget to stay up to date with the latest tools and programs. Not only will this help you be successful in your new role, but it can help you form relationships with a variety of different people.

One of the downsides of remote work, for many people, is that building new friendships or working relationships with your colleagues can be more difficult. However, if you are good at collaborative work, and you make an effort, then you will be able to navigate through these struggles and come out with some meaningful working relationships, as well as building up your network which could end up being extremely beneficial in your future career.