Where are we now, and what comes next? These are the questions every business has to answer after 18 turbulent months. Simon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana, explores how businesses have embraced digital tools and hybrid working only to find teams remain disconnected and siloed – and offers strategies for how organizations can fix it.
Where we are now
For many organizations, the abrupt shift to remote work felt like a transformation. Almost overnight, companies set up a swath of new tools, systems, and policies to try and create cohesion between dispersed teams.
Naturally, though, under high-pressure circumstances, many missteps were made. Businesses achieved what was necessary to keep things running, but the pace of digital transformation meant there was no time to fix underlying issues with work. The priority was keeping the lights on.
Today, with more space to maneuver, it’s the right time to reevaluate and take a look at some hard truths.
Despite more digital tools at our disposal, our teams aren’t actually more connected. Legacy tools and techniques we’ve failed to ditch—like using spreadsheets to track project progress—and new tools we’ve hastily onboarded are creating silos and confusion. What we need are connection and clarity.
With workplaces hoping for a period of greater stability, we have to be intentional about how we tackle silos, and optimize our tech stacks. The risks if we don’t? Low productivity, disengaged employees, and disconnected teams.
Silos drain productivity and engagement
Last year, employees lost an average of 227 hours to duplicated work or no longer relevant tasks. The result? Longer working days, and increasing burnout.
Duplicated work happens when we don’t have sight of what’s taking place in the wider business. It’s frustrating, unnecessary, and damaging to not only productivity but team morale. Nobody wants to spend the day working on something only to find another team member who has already completed the task.
To tackle issues like duplicated work and long days, we need to increase transparency. We need employees to have clarity over their role and how it connects to shared organizational missions alongside their teammates.
However, too often, transparency becomes confused with overload.
Context switching is hampering skilled work
Well-intentioned teams can easily end up oversharing in an attempt to create transparency. Think of all-company emails and mass meeting invites.
Without the right tools to organize and prioritize information, every member of every team receiving everything that’s going on in the business, is overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, for UK workers, one of the top barriers to productivity is having too many messages to respond to.
Our growing tech stacks are only exacerbating this challenge. Workers in the UK are now using an average of 10 different apps at work, and switching between them 25 times per day. This context switching drains focus and makes it harder for teams to create an impact through skilled, deep work.
Ironically, this increasing digital noise is having the opposite effect to what was intended. Teams struggle to wade through the information they need, and as a result, silos remain entrenched while productivity suffers.
What comes next: fewer silos, more shared purpose
So, how do we start uniting our teams without overloading them in an age of hybrid work?
Firstly, as we’ve seen, we can’t just add more apps. We need to be intentional about the ones we select for our team, while simultaneously relegating legacy tools that increase silos, like email, to the past.
What businesses require is purpose-built work management tools that integrate with a company’s entire tech stack and give everyone, across the company, clarity over who is doing what by when. In addition, these tools can align individuals, teams, and entire organizations around shared missions, and demonstrate how individual tasks ladder up to business goals.
Meanwhile, these platforms can bring all the information workers need into a single shared space, providing not just clarity over roles and deadlines, but also relevant documents, resources and integrations with other apps. By bringing this information into one place, time lost to context switching goes down, and focus goes up.
- The hybrid workplace is here to stay. Are you ready for it?
- How can the future of automation impact hybrid working
- Hybrid work: What to consider before making the leap
- The challenge of communication parity in hybrid work
Employees over the past year and a half have worked harder than ever. For the future of work, (whether remote, office-based, or a mix of the two) to be a success, we must enable them to work smarter.
By consolidating the tech stack, uniting people through a shared purpose and providing clarity over who is doing what by when, individuals, teams, and entire organizations can begin to thrive.