Online collaboration has made communication incredibly easy by solving the problem of time and distance. Through online collaboration, teams can work from diverse locations and engage in asynchronous communication without the need for physical presence. While instant messaging and emails have drastically reduced the ‘waiting time’ for information, tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Clariti have helped employees better organize their communication and increase productivity. The big question to ask is: Can the online collaboration completely replace face-to-face meetings?
In spite of the deep economic downturn because of the current pandemic, the benefits brought about by online collaboration has been a silver lining to society. Both employers and employees have experienced significant financial savings by working remote from their homes. The benefits of online collaboration were so significant where almost 43% of full-time employees in the USA expressed their willingness to work remotely even after the pandemic, according to a GetAbstract survey.
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Companies are now seriously exploring the option of permanent remote working for some of their employees, to see how they can get continued savings even after the pandemic ends. According to Global WorkplaceAnalytics, 6 out of 10 companies have experienced huge cost savings as a direct result of online collaboration in terms of lower costs from office rent, utilities, and other office expenses. Companies like Microsystems, Dow Chemical, and Nortel reported huge savings in real estate and non-real estate costs.
Even going by the study conducted during the pre-pandemic era, the benefits from online collaboration were quite significant. British Telecom company 02 experimented with telecommuting for a day and the company received 1,000 additional work hours from employees. Employees were richer by $11,000 that year due to lower fuel expenses and other costs such as childcare among others. No one can deny that online collaboration has reduced wasteful travel time and provided better work-life balance.
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Inspite of the many benefits of online collaboration, face-to-face meetings have their own advantages. Human beings are social creatures. Working isolated for long periods of time, even though there is online contact, can create mental issues affecting work productivity. Besides a lot of communications between people happen through non-verbal cues such as body language which is completely missed in the online environment. Online collaboration can easily be abused by managers blurring work-life balance which typically doesn’t happen unobtrusively when people work together at the office.
Every business has its own unique requirements and there is no one size that fits all. While collaboration tools can make communication fast and organized, it still cannot replace the interpersonal and personal relations that are needed for forging business alliances or close deals. Organizations cannot take decisions solely based on the surveys conducted by various research agencies. They will have to experiment to decide what is best for them and plan accordingly.