Strategic Tips to Combat Collaboration Chaos & Employee Exhaustion [Recorded Webinar]

In case you missed our recent webinar, Xgility’s JoAnna Battin and Kai Benson, shared why many employees and IT Departments are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed after a year of disruption – often stemming from decentralized collaboration tools and processes plus remote work stressors.

Listen to the recorded webinar to learn why it is vital that you and your organization take a step back and address those challenges.

One way to combat the issues starts with ensuring your Microsoft 365 collaboration strategy is both human-centric and technical to drive employee productivity, efficiency, engagement, and satisfaction at scale. But the strategy might not be what you expect.

Let’s Dive into Key Highlights from the Webinar

Remember the Quick Pivot to Remote Work Environment?

First, we need to first understand where the collaboration chaos and digital overload is coming from – and where we are today – in order to address it using a methodical and strategic approach to help your workforce thrive as we move forward into the next phases of all remote or hybrid work environments.

When we first went into lockdown due to the pandemic, it was a chaotic time for many organizations especially if they didn’t have a remote work environment strategy already in place or didn’t have online, connected applications for meeting, collaboration, and file storage. Let’s recap:

  • Quick Deployment of Online Meeting & Collaboration Applications:
    When the lockdown first started, organizations hastily rolled out different online meeting technology and communication tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams so their employees could continue to communicate and collaborate with people both inside and outside their organizations. Or they might have started using Slack along with other online tools.
  • Quick Deployment of Other Online Technologies File Storage or External Sharing:
    Next, organizations worried about providing their employees the technologies they needed to get their jobs done so they started using Box, SharePoint, or Microsoft Teams if they already had them – or employees themselves added Box or Google Docs to the mix because they were easy to deploy. Essentially, our employees found ways to do their jobs in the early time spent working remotely.
  • Lack of Guidance on How & When to Use the Online Technologies:
    But, when those applications or technologies were deployed, employees did not often receive the right guidance when it came to using them – and the lack the proficiency often led to creative workarounds, use of additional third-party apps, and unsecure external collaboration or file sharing.

As a result: employees have been using a myriad of disconnected tools and different ways to meet, collaborate, email, chat, share files, and store data throughout the day. And IT departments have been trying to support their staff with these technologies while keeping their networks and data safe.

Then remote work fatigue started setting in – stemming from three key sources: digital distractions, virtual overload, and an always-on mindset.

In a recent Gartner article, Alexia Cambon describes those stressors in real-world terms:

“Imagine driving a car and a squirrel jumps in front of your car every 40 seconds. That’s your digital distraction. Now add a passenger next to you who won’t stop talking. That’s your virtual overload. Finally, put this car on a highway with no exit signs. That’s your always-on mindset. So you’re in a car that’s start-stopping every 40 seconds, with a passenger who won’t stop talking and there’s no way to take it off the road. Wouldn’t that make you tired?”

It is no wonder our employees and IT teams overwhelmed and exhausted!

New Research Shows the Toll of Remote Work

And new research and studies show the toll that has had on our workforces. As JoAnna states, we need to pay attention to the findings of these reports to address the causes going forward. One such new study from Microsoft found that high productivity may be masking an exhausted workforce.

  • 1 in 5 global survey respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance.
  • 54% feel overworked.
  • 39% feel exhausted.
  • The digital intensity of our employees’ days has increased substantially – with the average number of meetings and chats steadily increasing since last year. This barrage of communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62% of calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc. And workers are feeling the pressure to keep up.

Other key findings from the survey are important to know:

  • Flexible work is here to stay:
    Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams.
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call:
    Many business leaders are faring better than their employees. Sixty-one % of leaders say they are “thriving” right now — 23% points higher than those without decision-making authority. And workers feel the disconnect. 37% of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this.

Now more than ever, organizations need to look at the data around employee exhaustion and digital overload – and address with a strategic mindset.

So, how does all this tie into a Microsoft 365 strategy?

Why You Need a Microsoft 365 Strategy – But It’s Not What You Think It Is

Deploying even more applications or tools to your workforce will not help reduce chaos or employee burnout. In fact, many strategies that organizations are employing to ensure productivity are actually exacerbating these fatigue drivers.

As we look to create a better future of work, addressing digital exhaustion must be a priority for leaders everywhere. It won’t be easy, but consider how to reduce employee workloads, embrace a balance of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, ensure employees are given the flexibility to work when and where they want, and give everyone in your workforce a consistent set of connected applications and tools they need to equally contribute from anywhere.

To put this idea in perspective, ask yourself:

  • Are your employees switching between multiple different applications throughout the day? For example, are they storing documents in Dropbox, sending emails via Outlook, meeting with internal teammates via Microsoft Teams calls but holding online video meetings with clients via Zoom? Are some using Slack to chat with clients but using Google Docs to share important documents because guest access isn’t turned on in Microsoft Teams?
  • Is everyone in your organization using the same Microsoft 365 applications consistently or different people using different applications to do the same thing? For example, are some departments using SharePoint Online to store and share documents while others are using OneDrive for Business or Dropbox, or Microsoft Teams?

Just imagine how much more efficient and productive your employees could if they used the same set of connected, online applications in a consistent and structured way. And Microsoft 365 business applications like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business have multiple and powerful functionalities that help your users streamline how they work throughout the day.

But, as JoAnna explains, your organization’s Microsoft 365 strategy needs to focus on the EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE – not the technical solutions. With careful consideration, your organization’s managers and IT leaders need to set clear expectations and standardized collaboration processes that get everyone within your workforce on the same page – and provide opportunities for improved performance and employee wellbeing. And then the technologies will naturally fall into place.

As JoAnna points out, this new strategic mindset may feel uncomfortable – but it is not about control. It’s about setting expectations and communicating them to your organization. Be explicit in establishing what collaboration looks like for online or video meetings, chats, working together on documents, file sharing and storage, external communications, and more. But make sure you take a human-centric approach.

But what exactly does that look like in action?

  • Provide Guidance and Guardrails for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint & OneDrive for Business:
    This step is key. Get everyone on the same page for seamless collaboration and communications. How? Set expectations and define tool usage for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business. Explain to your workforce how and when to use each application – and why.
  • Address 3rd Party Applications:
    We know change is hard. Taking away 3rd party apps like Dropbox or Google Docs may backfire. Instead, show the value in connected Microsoft 365 tools over 3rd party applications so your employees will want to use them. That can eliminate or reduce switching back and forth between multiple applications throughout the day. And bring back all that data from those 3rd party systems into the Microsoft 365 environment.
  • Enable Guest Access:
    Provide seamless collaboration and communication with external users. This will help keep your data and files secure – while eliminating 3rd party apps. But until you turn that guest access on, your employees are going to continue to use third-party apps. So, identify how and why your teams or departments are sharing files or need to have online chats with people outside your organization. Then enable the right types of guest access within your applications and tenants.
  • Encourage Consistent Processes:
    Once you have set clear expectations about which Microsoft 365 applications to use and when, addressed the 3rd party applications, and enabled guest access, then encourage your employees to think about how they can recreate the processes they were using before to collaborate – and map those processes within Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, or OneDrive for Business.
  • Protect Your Data – Governance is No Longer an Option:
    Developing an equitable governance plan will provide the right structure to keep your data safe giving the flexibility your workforce needs to be productive throughout the day.

Remember, the focus of your Microsoft 365 collaboration strategy is on helping your workforce do their best work throughout the day – and adding consistency will help eliminate the stresses that come from collaboration chaos.  By taking both a human-centric and technical approach, you can drive employee productivity, efficiency, engagement, and satisfaction at scale.

Whether you have already rolled out Microsoft 365 apps like Microsoft Team, SharePoint, and OneDrive or plan to do so soon, those tips will not only help reduce the chaos but will help build a solid foundation to help get everyone on the same page for seamless collaboration and communication with connected applications moving forward into a hybrid or all-remote work environment.

Our Team is Here to Help

At Xgility, we know that strategic planning is key to success. Our Strategy & Advisory team has been helping clients of all sizes successfully roll out the Microsoft 365 platform and key business applications including Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business with unprecedented adoption rates.

Please reach out to learn how we can help unravel the complexities and capabilities of the Microsoft 365 tools and applications to empower your employees and optimize operations. As a Microsoft Gold Partner with vast experience under our belts, we are ready to help. Contact Us Now »