Innovation and productivity are two key factors in the growth and success of any company. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the traditional office evolved into a structure that encouraged both - employees had desks where they could perform their individual tasks but came together to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects.

When workers were suddenly forced home in March 2020, however, nobody knew what to expect. With the normal workday out the window, many thought productivity would plummet during the lockdown.

Against expectations, by November of 2021, productivity had increased. A study by Microsoft showed that 82 percent of company leaders felt their companies were at least equally if not more productive than before lockdown. Now, after almost two years, some experts predict productivity will rise by 5 percent as a direct result of remote or hybrid work.

But what about creativity? It was certainly harder for coworkers to collaborate and innovate when everyone was working in their own spaces. For many, creativity occurs through spontaneous interaction, coming together with trusted colleagues to develop ideas until innovation strikes. The distant, planned nature of video calls can make it difficult to replicate the energy of in-person brainstorming.

In the coming months, it falls to employers to figure out how to support the individual productivity of working from home while fostering the creativity that comes from a group setting. The office of the future will likely follow a hybrid model, and the right collaborative technology will determine the success of companies going forward.

So, what will this new productivity paradigm look like? To encourage the highest levels of productivity and innovation from your employees, it’s important to understand the factors that go into each element of success, as well as the ways to implement them in your workplace.

What Factors into Productivity?

It goes without saying that productive employees are critical for a company’s success. Recently, productivity has hinged on workers’ adaptability and ability to function independently in non-traditional environments. Three important elements that play into modern productivity are outlined below:

1. Tech Savviness: Unsurprisingly, the companies that adapted most quickly to remote work were the ones that considered themselves to be “digital transformation leaders” before the pandemic. These organizations were already using integrated communications and cloud technology to keep workers on the same page. Employees were familiar with the systems and easily transitioned to the digital workspace. In fact, a study by 451 Research showed that 40 percent of digital transformation leaders felt like they were more productive during lockdown, while 22 percent of self-described digital transformation “laggards” felt less productive.

Getting all employees up to speed using video calls, text messaging and file sharing may take time at the beginning but pays off in the end by ensuring that everyone is seamlessly connected to the workflow. But implementing collaboration systems doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Integrated communication platforms require little to no training and ensure that communications flow naturally.

2. Time to Focus: With a significant part of remote workdays consumed by virtual meetings, some employers began to implement “focus time”: hours or days designated to be free of the interruptions of video calls. Just over 50 percent of employees reported more productivity per hour when allowed to concentrate on tasks without disruptions.

The best place to focus varies from worker to worker. Some feel less distracted when working from home, while others desire the structure of the office. The challenge for managers will be to find the balance between giving employees the independence to work on their own and to make sure they remain integrated with the rest of the team no matter where they’re located.

3. Employee Engagement: It might seem like common sense that a happy employee is a productive employee. In fact, employees who are deeply connected to their companies are 55 percent more productive than those who don’t have the same feelings.

With workers now spread across different locations, it falls to companies to find creative ways to create a sense of a unified culture. Listening to employees’ needs is important, as well as ensuring that those who choose to stay remote feel integrated into the community.

And What About Innovation?

Innovation happens best when teams come together and create solutions. Companies that encourage creativity stay ahead of the curve, while those that don’t make the same investment will quickly fall behind. Structures that support innovation include:

1. Effortless Communications: Teams that have free and open conversations with each other innovate on a higher level. The creative energy that arises from the ability to iterate ideas is what drives companies to develop new products and stay at the top of the field.

With employees at home and in the office, it’s essential to have the technology in place to replicate or even improve upon the traditional white board setting. Apps with shared documents and instant communications features allow coworkers to collaborate easily without getting bogged down by slow connections or switching between applications.

2. Time for Teamwork: While productivity may rely on independent labor, innovation is a team effort. Whether employees are in-person or remote, prioritizing structured time for everyone to come together is important for fostering new ideas. 

Creating an intentional schedule specifically for brainstorming sessions ensures coworkers have the time to build trust and feel comfortable sharing ideas. In a remote or hybrid setting, the spontaneity of in-person idea sharing can feel stymied, but using screen sharing and video chatting apps can help it feel like everyone is in the same room.

3. A Community of Trust: In a time when many new employees have never met their coworkers in person, it can be difficult to form strong team bonds. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable in a group setting, they won’t be contributing their best ideas. Fostering an environment where it’s safe for ideas to fail as well as succeed is important for innovation. 

Finding ways to establish connections is always a challenge - even more so without the nuances of personal interaction. Being able to seamlessly switch from text messaging to video chatting removes some of the barriers of communication between coworkers and helps everyone feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Creating a New Paradigm for Productivity and Innovation

The new productivity paradigm arises from the lessons we’ve learned over the past few years. It may still be a long time yet before the majority of the workforce is back in the office – if that ever happens at all. For the time being, a balance of in-person, remote and hybrid work is likely to be the norm. There are ways to capitalize on the increase in productivity from the pandemic while encouraging innovation in the hybrid sphere, but they’ll take time to figure out.

In the evolved office, coworking spaces will be places for teams to come together for creative sessions. Structured synchronous time, whether in-person, virtual or a combination is important to foster new ideas. For those who choose to remain remote, technology can help maintain the spontaneous atmosphere that breeds innovation. Video conferencing and virtual white boards allow everyone to work together simultaneously and grow closer as a team.

Maintaining the productivity growth we’ve seen in the past few years will also be a challenge. Listening to workers and figuring out how their individual needs fit into the broader goals of the company is important for employee engagement. Building trust and independence allows employees to efficiently complete their tasks on their own terms.

No matter what the office of the future becomes, it’s clear that investing in communications technology and ensuring that everyone is up to speed will be key in supporting productivity and innovation in 2022. Integrated communication solutions like MiCollab help bridge the gap between remote and in-person work, providing ways for everyone to feel confident and connected.

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