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October 28, 2020

Collaboratories

Collaboratories

Creating Connection Through Technology


Remember using Skype back in the day? More than likely you have more than one frustrating experience with that fuzzy picture freezing up or cutting out (maybe every experience).

We’re pretty far beyond that unreliable video call system now. But Zoom–even as a huge upgrade (backgrounds and all)–is far from what it could be. We’ve evolved to connect more realistically and with better stability than we did a decade ago, no doubt. But we’re always pushing for innovation, and the current state is forcing it to happen even faster for the sake of much needed virtual productivity and collaboration.

Although the big tension we’re all facing in the next iteration of work is the ease of virtual connection (from home or around the world) and the important energy and serendipity of being with people in the same room. It seems virtual is tied to speed, a schedule, and results, while in-person work is tied to relationships and effective communication (emotions, creativity, and culture-building).

As we battle a pandemic, business owners are also battling how to solve both of these problems well.

In this article we’ll explore solutions technologists are hoping will bridge the gap and evolve technology to create better connections.

Fast, Secure Connection

Experts are calling for a hefty amount of high-tech upgrades to offices in order for employees to work safely going forward. From sensors that track employees and keep them from congregating to air quality improvement equipment, to unmanned cleaning robots that can disinfect high-touch surfaces, these upgrades will help us “return to normal” as much as possible. But as Bisnow reports, maybe the greatest change will come from the digital backbone that supports all of this change.


A lot of the concern comes with the network strength and server space most businesses have available now to help these systems run smoothly. Fiber optic cabling will be essential to supporting these advancements, and so will programs that help interpret what’s being read and captured by the systems.


Businesses will need these systems in place to review and understand the data they receive like air filtration monitoring or temperature scanning of people in the space, otherwise the connection will more than likely create more trouble than aid in the safety and comfortability of the people working in the environment.


Some technologies that need the support of a strong network might include:

  • Infrared thermometric imaging at scale, which can accurately measure temperatures across a building’s lobby without human contact and alert building operations of any high-temperature individuals on-site.
  • Smart parking solutions, which can reduce tenant interactions in parking garages, elevators and other common spaces.
  • Security and surveillance solutions that count and track employees throughout the workspace and can detect and discourage crowding in high-traffic areas.
  • Environmental sensors to improve tenant health with air quality monitoring.


Productive Connection

Often what’s touted as the benefit of virtual work is the efficiency and results businesses are seeing across their teams.

But as studies show, collaborative work and creativity suffer when people are out of touch with the genius that run-in’s and in-the-moment brainstorming sessions create.

One trend we’re seeing in both virtual and in-person workplaces is the “virtual side-by-side.” It’s a simple but effective way to work on projects simultaneously with team members so the flow of ideas and objections can be worked out in real time. This solution just requires time blocking a project with teammates and working together on a video call or in person to encourage communication and hold the team accountable to the work that needs to get done.

Another recent HBR study also suggested that technologies like affordable home-sized smartboard, interactive whiteboard tools and in-home 3D printers for modeling designs may be made readily available to help keep productivity in motion.


Human Connection

We’re all more than familiar with Slack, Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom to keep us connected while we’re online. But the element often missed as we use these technologies is the reality in the virtual space.

There are no spontaneous conversations or talks about weekend plans that might happen on your way to get a cup of coffee.

The approach innovators are taking to that is to add back the reality to the virtual environment.

Teams in some of the world’s largest financial services companies and retailers meet in virtual offices using “mixed reality” programs like Sneek and Pukkateam. These platforms create a feeling of togetherness by showing colleagues in tiles with periodically updated snapshots, so they know who is at their desk, on a call, or drinking a coffee and perhaps up for a chat. Other programs like these allow for quick, unplanned video chatting with people throughout the office so those random questions, jokes, and encouragements aren’t lost or unspoken as employees work in physical solitude.

The importance of connection isn’t what we’ll see change in the coming years of workplace advancement. The way it’s achieved and how well it’s blended with our virtual lives to resolve that tension is what we will see unfold as we aim to work smarter.

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