Hot and Cold: Workplace Collaboration Trends

With the rise of remote and hybrid work following the pandemic, workplace collaboration has become increasingly important for companies. In the common situation where employees are working from their home desktops instead of sitting in the office with their coworkers, the need for effective collaboration software has skyrocketed. With more advanced software and AI products hitting the communication tool market seemingly every day, the collaboration software landscape has been changing rapidly. Here is a “hot” workplace collaboration trend at the moment as well as a trend that is now seen as “cold.” 

Hot: Communication-enabled workflow

For many who use collaboration tools, a big inconvenience is the constant need to switch between applications. With countless tabs open, constant pinging, and the need to juggle between different projects, information overload has become a significant productivity issue. According to Gartner, the average number of applications an office worker uses is 11, which is considerably more than the average of 6 in 2019. Gartner also reported that 47% of digital workers struggle to find the information needed to effectively perform their jobs. Software vendors and workplace leaders have recognized this problem, resulting in an increased effort to place collaboration tools more directly into a workflow. According to Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, “bringing together productivity and collaboration applications tightly integrated with business workflows has emerged as a key trend, enabling organizations to reduce friction in employees’ day-to-day work and improve productivity.” Google Workshops has reflected this trend by making it possible for video meetings to be started around a google doc, slide, or spreadsheet while Microsoft has integrated communications into apps like Excel. Remote and hybrid work – at least for some people – is here to stay, and the technology needed to ensure collaboration and easy communication between workers will only continue to grow. 

Cold: The metaverse for business collaboration

When the metaverse became a major talking point in 2021 after its announcement by Meta, people anticipated the new VR technology to be the future of business collaboration. Industry leaders considered the idea of headset-dependent meetings being held in a virtual reality setting. With the announcement of Meta’s Horizon Workrooms –  a virtual reality social space aimed to replicate conference room meetings – the metaverse seemed like the next, futuristic collaboration tool. However, the tech industry’s excitement for the metaverse quickly died down when workers gradually returned to the office. While hybrid and remote work is still a common practice – almost half of all US workers work in a remote or hybrid model according to Forbes – the metaverse’s intention to perfect a completely remote way of working and collaborating slipped out of relevancy. Another reason for the metaverse’s falling trend was the explosive growth of generative AI fueled by the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022. Expected to become a $1.3 trillion industry by 2032, the generative AI market vastly overshadowed the metaverse and any sort of progress it was making in the IT industry. Sales of VR headsets have fallen short of expectations and Meta’s billions in AI development have yet to make considerable returns. It’s worth mentioning that the metaverse is not completely dead: almost three-quarters of business leaders – according to an Oxford/Protiviti survey on the metaverse – believe its technology will impact employee engagement within the next decade. However, at least in the near future, the metaverse will take the back seat as generative AI takes the wheel in the IT industry.

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