The last decade has seen huge shifts in the way teams and businesses work together. Today, it’s more and more common for businesses to hire remote employees, outsource to service providers, and allow flexible working. Here are seven teamwork trends that will impact your business.

Businesses must learn to collaborate on a higher level.

To meet the dramatic changes in the way that teams work, it’s imperative that businesses learn to collaborate on a higher level. Communication needs to be responsive and in real-time, while management needs to be collaborative and engaging.

In 2020 and beyond, trends in workplace technology reflect the changes to teamwork and its increasingly virtually connected environment. It’s the rise of collaboration and communication tools, as well as the changes in management styles and methodologies that make teamwork possible.

Seven teamwork trends that will impact your business.

#1 The Increasingly Distributed Office

While this isn’t a new trend, it’s one that’s likely to continue to grow. Businesses are becoming increasingly geographically (across cities, countries, and continents) and organizationally distributed.

Many companies no longer have one central office, and those that do no longer rely on a centralized workspace. Instead, there has been a considerable shift toward a cross-functional collaboration.

Driven by a desire to reduce labor costs or to gain access to skills not readily available in the local area, companies are choosing to reduce the number of employees.

Instead, it’s cheaper, more comfortable, and, arguably, better to outsource work to service providers and freelancers. Outsourcing will mean that today, companies are made up of employees, suppliers, contractors, and clients located around the world.

However, as well as being geographically distributed, decision-making is also dispersed throughout the broader organization by, for example, satellite teams located in markets nearer to customer bases.

#2 The Increasing Importance of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration is when a group of people, each with different expertise, work together to meet a common goal. This can be as simple as a group of people across multiple departments working together to deliver a joint project.

Modern workplaces understand the impact that cross-functional collaboration can have on overall business performance. It’s a powerful tool, allowing teams and departments to stay aligned while increasing transparency and promoting diversity.

There are numerous benefits of cross-functional collaboration. For instance, when you bring together multiple departments to deliver one project, it’s easier to discover different perspectives and identify innovative solutions to satisfy the client and the business itself.

Not only does this ensure different viewpoints are heard, but it also challenges old ideas and the status quo and fosters a culture of learning and cooperation. The former playing field is leveled with traditionally lower down team members, allowing them to offer solutions rather than receiving directions from the top down.

While there are many benefits to cross-functional collaboration, it does have its fair share of challenges. It requires trust, clearly defined goals and tasks, and excellent communication.

#3 Team Culture Has Changed

Remote working and outsourced service providers have shown that teams can work together virtually and successfully.

People can work together across locations and time zones, solving problems, and building innovative solutions without the need to ever meet in person.

Also, open-plan offices have been found to hinder, not help, team collaboration. Studies have shown that “rather than promoting collaboration, open-air spaces caused employees to withdraw into the world of electronic messaging.”

With 86% of employees reporting that they are more productive when they work alone, it’s clear that team culture has drastically changed over the last decade.

But how can businesses manage remote teams and overcome the inherent obstacles?

  • First, it’s more important than ever to keep track of employee activity via project management tools and status updates.
  • Second, clearly defined expectations need to be established so that every team member knows exactly what’s expected of them, and when.

Other tips include promoting communication and opportunities for employee engagement, all of which can be aided with the right collaboration and communication tools.

#4 An Increasing Variety of Collaboration Technologies

The changes in business structures mean that management styles, work practices, and collaboration and communication technologies have evolved in an attempt to keep up.

The rise of cross-functional collaboration and distributed offices are mirrored with a rise in collaboration technologies for teams.

Team collaboration comes in a variety of forms, as do the tools:

  • Project Management and Document Collaboration: These tools allow teams to manage projects and collaborate on documents efficiently.
  • Kanban Boards: The boards allow teams to collaboratively manage projects and workflows. By setting out clear expectations, they can be helpful in limiting scope creep.
  • Video Conferencing and Instant Chat: Communication tools allow team members to easily work together in real-time via chat and video.
  • Time Tracking Tools: These tools track the time that individual team members spend on deliverables and projects. As well as simply tracking time, some tools can connect to invoicing systems to create quotes and invoices.

The tool(s) you need will depend on your use case(s). Unless you only need one tool for a very specific task, you need to carefully consider whether the tools will play nicely together.

Unfortunately, the rise of collaboration tools has created its own set of problems. If you’re not careful, you can end up with a web of connected tools with complex zaps or trigger events.

Instead of just relying on your email inbox, you now need to check Slack, Asana, Trello, and so on to find the information you need.

If you do need to use multiple tools, consider an email-based project management tool like Gmelius, which allows your team to collaborate on project and client management without leaving their inbox.

A good email-based project management tool should have the same functionality as many other collaboration tools. However, the benefit here is that by living inside your inbox, it won’t complicate your workflow or require your team to learn new software.

#5 A Growing Number of Communication Tools

There is a greater emphasis on work-life balance in modern workplaces, with much more flexibility. Today, it’s common for teams to work together across different locations, time zones, and even continents.

While some companies allow employees to work from home, others have moved to a remote-first environment. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that team members can communicate easily and quickly.

It’s no longer viable for team members to send lengthy email messages; instead, communication needs to be responsive and in real-time. Luckily, whatever the blend of in-house employees and outsourced teams, there is a wealth of tools available to help you communicate seamlessly with your team.

The use of tools to aid real-time communication has increased dramatically. This includes the integration of chat services, phone, video, instant messengers, commenting systems, and so on. These tools are available across a range of devices, so you can keep up to date even when on the go.

However, like collaboration tools, the rise of communication tools has added to the complex web of resources we now rely on every day. Instead of fixing the problem, it adds to it.

More and more people are moving toward an all-in-one tool, like email-based project management tools, which allow you to not only manage your project from inside your email inbox but to also comment and chat in real-time with co-workers.

#6 Agile Team and Methodology

Traditionally, agile methodologies have been the wheelhouse for tech and development agencies and departments. Development teams, trained in an agile method, like Scrum, would implement the practices in order to increase productivity and improve quality.

However, other kinds of teams and businesses are now finding successful results by applying agile principles. Organizations are expanding agile methodologies into product development, portfolio management, and human resources.

What is agile? And how does it benefit your business?

Agile is a process that helps teams provide responses to feedback on a project. It also enables a project’s direction to be assessed throughout the development or delivery cycle via regular meetings called “sprints” or “iterations.”

But nowadays, agile is much more than a process. Agile involves a team’s environment and, for example, the office layout and furniture. Everything should be designed to allow tasks to be flexibly delivered, in the most efficient way.

It allows companies to build the right product and regularly analyze and improve the product throughout its development. The process should enable the delivered product to be fit for purpose, valuable, and competitive in the market.

Alongside improved productivity, other benefits for agile working include:

  • a sense of autonomy and freedom for team members;
  • increased happiness, job satisfaction, and morale; and
  • lower costs and higher efficiency of working.

#7 Companies are Rethinking Traditional Performance Reviews

Studies have shown that one-third of U.S. companies are ditching the annual/biannual performance review.

These formal reviews have been replaced with regular, informal updates between managers and employees. Instead of waiting for a year, businesses are conducting frequent but informal manager-and-employee check-ins.

Annual reviews tend to focus primarily on financial rewards or punishments for historic work. While understandable, the focus on past behavior misses the opportunity to provide feedback to improve performance and increase skills moving forward.

On the other hand, ongoing discussions about performance and development shift the focus to improvements, which are highly important for the long-term survival of organizations.

Summing Up

Most people would agree that the blending of the digital and physical world has massively impacted, and will continue to impact, team collaboration in the workplace.

Today, businesses are a complex web of people, devices, tools, and services that work together through multi-dimensional communication.

Collaboration and communication tools change the ways that people work together and how businesses deliver projects. The tools enhance productivity and allow managers to hire talent, regardless of the location.

However, it’s the emerging changes in management styles and methodologies, coupled with the tools and technologies, that allow employees and employers to work together to reach a common goal, productively and transparently.

Lina Yakunina

Lina is a Product Marketing Manager at Gmelius. She helps teams of every shape, size and industry scale their processes thanks to increased transparency and a consolidated workspace.