How to collaborate-in-place — where, when, how, and why do I engage in the digital workplace?
Good collaboration begins by first setting boundaries to protect your time and energy — and then, observing the boundaries of others.
- Acknowledge your energy levels (of yourself and others) — Cherish your peak focus hours and protect these windows of time for ‘deep work’ (in the light of COVID-19, these hours may have changed because your space and routine have been altered).
- Begin calendar blocking — Use a scheduling tool (like Calendly) to share your ‘real time’ calendar. Block windows of time and set restrictions so you are working and taking calls during designated times. Do not forget to block time to rest, eat, and reflect. Consider how you might block time to build one or two tiny habits.
- Ease context switching (for yourself and others) — Consider shortening 30-minute meetings to 20-minutes and one hour meetings to 50-minutes. Get some fresh air and step away from your computer screen — use this time to reconnect with your partner or kids or simply take some time for yourself, so that you may go into the next meeting or phase of work with a fresh mind.
- Find your weekly rhythm (for yourself and others) — If you are able (and perhaps this begins by modeling the behavior for others), select days of the week that are specifically for online meetings/calls and webinars, so other days are dedicated to deep or focused work. Or perhaps, begin by selecting one day a week where no calls or meetings will be scheduled, such as Fridays. Consider scheduling collective activity days — for instance, perhaps one day every two weeks is dedicated to all employees / team members conducting research or reviewing and conducting visitor / audience / community outreach and analysis.
- Protect your offline time — Someone or something will try to be the exception to the restrictions you have set for yourself or others — DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. This is your time to recharge or become inspired. Just as you do not want this time interrupted, be mindful of the calendars and communication boundaries set by others.
Easy isn’t always simple.
Now that you have set personal and professional boundaries, it is time to collaborate. It can be a bit confusing to work-out-loud, if you are unsure what tool/technology to use when, why, and how. Meet people where they are.
Find ways to collaborate-in-place — meaning, find ways to communicate and collaborate where work is already being done. Select areas of collaboration that are fit-for-purpose. Make it easy for someone to get to the right information at the right time and take action.
Don’t neglect the collaboration blindspot: to create or make space for collaboration, you need to understand how groups define and develop their sense of security.
If people are working primarily with Microsoft tools like Word and Excel, use Office Online apps to build, edit, and comment on documents together rather than emailing documents back-and-forth and risk losing a version or not knowing what is the most current version of your work. Link to documents, rather than attach.
Choose the right set of tools to integrate with your digital ecosystem to enhance, not overshadow, the collaboration required.
Here is a handy graphic to see where and when content and conversation should be shared:
[For the purposes of this example, I am referring to O365 tools, but you may replace them with similar features and technologies that are fit-for-purpose within your organization.]
Our goal is to get data, information, and knowledge out of the dark abyss of our email and visible to multiple people. There is still a need for one-to-one (1:1) information, but consider how one-to-few (1:few), few-to-few (few:few), or one-to-many (1:many) communication exchanges may replace the need for email or in-person meetings.
Here is your challenge: How might you use collaboration channels + Intranet (if applicable) to replace one or more meetings you have scheduled this week?
For more information about designing ‘CALM’ practices and processes, please read: A ‘CALM’ approach to leadership in the digital age.
For more information about ‘BE: CALM’ workshops and consultation, please visit: Your Digital Tattoo.