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Humans are social creatures. While the image of the lone genius — the person who works night and day alone in singleminded pursuit of greatness — persists, if there’s anything the last year has taught us, it’s that, well, being alone is hard. Working alone is hard too (ask anyone who’s ended up owning a group project at school), and while many of us still quote the mantra of “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” that lonely experience takes a real toll.

According to a Stanford study, it turns out we’re actually more motivated to work on any given task when we’re collaborating with other people. In fact, not only did those in the study spend 64% more time working on a challenging puzzle when they were working together, but they reported higher engagement levels and success rates while having lower fatigue than solitary participants.

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Better communication and collaboration improve business outcomes

What does this all mean for the workplace? Broadly, that we’re not only happier we’re working collaboratively than when we’re working alone, but that we’re better. And that doesn’t have to change just because we’re not physically together, but the first step has to be making sure we’re able to talk to each other. In the conclusion of the Stanford study, the authors say, “Communication in general and teaching and learning, in particular, are inherently collaborative acts.” Just by talking to each other, we’re primed to gain the benefits of collaboration.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still harness that innate power, give it purpose, and create an even larger mutual benefit. By improving the way in which we communicate — democratizing it and reducing noise and friction — we can realize real business benefits of better operational efficiency, higher employee engagement, and improved business outcomes. 

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How to create a frictionless collaborative environment

While 1:1 conversations are always beneficial, platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack that allow us to talk with anyone we work with, regardless of location, team, or role, is foundational to true collaboration. Combining chat and video capabilities gives you a kind of communication multitool that requires none of the kind of context switching that kills momentum. And because it’s a system that everyone is in, it can also be foundational to your overall company tech stack.

The second step in facilitating collaboration is helping employees to find the signal in the noise. How can you make communication more useful? After all, you want to enhance those positive effects of collaboration, not inundate people with information that may not be useful to them. So find ways to reduce duplicate questions at all hours of the day by adding a knowledge management system that integrates with communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Not only does that solution allow employees to help themselves when they can (freeing up your communications to be used to further collaboration), but it also reduces that context switching that kills productivity.

It can also feel overwhelming to glance at your chat platform and see so many conversations happening simultaneously. Eliminating the clutter of repeat questions and general confusion can ensure that, even when we’re working longer hours, we’re less likely to burn out

Beyond that, it’s imperative to make sure information from across the company is in one place. Not just because that makes it accessible in Slack or Teams, but because more documented company-wide information is better. 

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One never knows what kinds of questions will pop up in the course of a workday, but siloing of information by teams can actively hinder self-service, forcing interruptions of colleagues, and adding noise back into chat. In a single day, any given employee may need access to information from HR, IT, Marketing, and Product. If that person has to switch between even 2 different platforms to find answers (because HR lives in SharePoint and Product lives in Confluence), that’s two points of frustration and interruption. It often becomes easier simply to go right back to asking questions, bypassing knowledge platforms entirely.

By making information from all over the company accessible to everyone, right within their communications platform, you can ensure that the conversations that do happen are ones that move projects forward, instead of frustrating interruptions that stifle momentum.

Communication may be an inherently collaborative act, but by making it easier and more efficient, you’re creating a knowledge-driven culture where employees can thrive.

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