The future of collaboration

Our landscape has altered.  Commuters once again crowd public transportation. Retail shops are busy, and conferences are back on the calendar. But not all things have returned to their former state, many offices have not seen all their staff return. Boardrooms across the country are deliberating the purpose of physical offices. Leaders are evaluating performance data to understand the correlation between working from home versus solo work at a purpose-built office. 

The question that we need to be considering during the deliberation of back to the office or not is ‘what are the unique benefits that being back in the office offers?’. At a grass roots level, it could be argued that for many workers the desire to return to the office may be for interaction with their colleagues, the need to be in a different environment. It may be that they need the physical visibility to feel acknowledged. At a departmental and leadership level the greatest argument for returning to the office is centred around collaboration.   

Being in a physical space created for collaboration and being face to face often is the holy grail that unlocks group creativity. Physical collaboration gratifies our need for human connection and interaction. Being physically present forces us to be ‘present’. The result of the aforementioned is often successful interactions and as such the delivery of results. There are of course disadvantages to face to face interaction such as wasted time in lengthy information dump meetings or the simple cost of travel and time commuting.  

What are three key areas that appear to be defining our thoughts around returning to the office?

There are three key areas that appear to be defining our thoughts around returning to the office:

  • employee wellbeing
  • performance
  • transformation

Many businesses have opted for a hybrid business model that allows flexibility around returning to the office. These businesses monitor external and internal data to interrogate the impact of the split model and adapt accordingly. Interestingly, many businesses have opted to revamp their offices to encourage purposeful collaboration to inspire creativity and promote innovation while steering away from forcing workers back to their desksSome are encouraging physical social interaction. After all, transformational ideas through collaboration often develop away from the constraints of everyday work.

Whilst digital communication tools have helped businesses survive the pandemic, they still fall short in some facets of collaboration. The human condition for engagement with others in an authentic form is yet to be replicated by AR/VR or any other emerging technology. In conclusion, individual businesses need to assess their own state.

  • How often do they need employees to be together in a physical space? 
  • What have we learnt from enhanced productivity that we discovered through virtual meetings that could be brought into physical meetings? 
  • Will your top talent feel stifled if the expectation is to return to the old? 

Our question to you, to prompt purposeful and productive conversations and senior leadership level would be:

What could you possibly do to create the workplace of the future to encourage better collaboration? 


Written by PJ Surani

Thinking Engineer / Head of Digital Strategy

PJ has worked as a business growth strategist predominantly with blue-chip clients globally for over 15 years – particularly within aviation, automotive and manufacturing where she is recognised for delivering success though innovation and disruptive ideas.

PJ thrives on facilitation and new product development and is our in-house transformation expert. She works closely with our internal teams leading our digital transformation and has a great understanding about how technology will play a significant part in achieving our 100 million Light Bulb Moment vision.

Her passion for aviation led to PJ learning to fly at 16 years old and qualifying as a commercial airline pilot aged 20. In her spare time she is an air traffic controller at a local airfield.