In 2020, the digital transformation of many organisations gained momentum. In particular, the transition to the digital workplace. Some companies were already in the middle of the transition to new ways of online collaboration, while other ones had to switch to new platforms and media at lightning speed.

Trends in online collaboration experiences

Technology is one thing, but what about the social aspect? How do you work better together, how do you keep in touch? Also for managers, online collaboration brings new challenges. Together with Veldhoen + Company, HSO collected insights and experiences with new ways of (collaborating) working. In this blog we list a number of take-aways for managers.

Online collaboration and digital leadership: how do you do that?

Digital leadership, how do you do that? How do you give and receive feedback? If we all collaborate online, how can you best support your employees? We share 5 important insights with you.

1.  The degree of autonomy a professional experiences is a decisive factor…
… in the shift to working from home and whether employees are positive about this. Countries differ greatly in the way people are used to working autonomously and are sensitive to hierarchy. In the Netherlands for example, there is relatively little hierarchy. Strict control is therefore less likely to work well, but also less necessary, because people are used to working autonomously.

2. Working at home every day is not the same as working 100% online
There is a difference between working at home occasionally (with your teammates in the office) and working at home when your entire organisation does so at the same time. As large parts of the world went into lockdown, millions of employees lost direct connection with their companies and colleagues. An important role for managers is to ensure that employees do not lose this connection within and between teams, as well as with the company.

3. Employees experience more stress – from working online but also from great uncertainty
Collaborating online can be stressful, as work and private life intermingle, people have many and short online meetings, etc. But the huge uncertainty about the virus, the dangers and the long-term impact also cause more stress.

In 2020 we saw that organisations, executives and managers were concerned about this uncertainty and the related challenges. Supporting employees as much as possible was not the first priority at the time. Most managers simply migrated as many existing work processes as possible to the new digital world. We cancelled events, training courses and meetings. For 2021 and beyond, it is important that managers create a culture in which employees feel supported and trusted, even at a distance.

4. Remote working is a long-term risk for social capital
We see that when employees do not see each other physically in the office and in informal situations, for example at the coffee machine, communication becomes more formalised. Moreover, teams tend to rely on previously established trusting relationships. For younger or new employees, it is difficult to build these relationships. How do you ensure that this social capital is maintained and how can you support it?

5. Informal networks are crucial for innovation 
Innovation is essential in organisations and is usually the result of occasional, difficult to organise interactions. Informal networks seem to play an important role in innovation and in decision making. Managers should be aware of this and step outside the formal network to support the informal network.

New ways of online and offline collaboration for better results

This time, this momentum, is the time to fundamentally rethink the way we work. How can we enable our people to work with more pleasure and in the best possible way? Which technology is needed for this, but also: which skills? Both for employees and managers? Not only to be ready for when another extreme situation like COVID-19 occurs, but especially: to create a better workplace and thus achieve better results.

Download our report Workplace Innovation in a post-pandemic era