The role of B2B marketers varies greatly, but all marketers have one thing in common that determines their success: excellent workplace communication.
In 2021, hybrid working will likely become baked into many organizations: 54% of people temporarily working from home would like to continue doing so post-pandemic, a Pew Research study found.
Much of the narrative about “remote working” emphasizes the “remote” part as a barrier to communication. But if you flip that concept on its head, you can think of it like this: Hybrid working puts everyone you collaborate with at an equally close distance.
Collaboration in the Workplace of the Future
The first step is to learn that “collaboration” goes beyond meetings. You can now (digitally) sit down with your colleagues in Marketing, those in other parts of the business (e.g., Sales), and your customers—all from the same place.
For example, some marketing teams have taken to “working out loud” in a chat tool such as Workplace from Facebook, posting regular snippets about the tasks they are doing. Doing so prompts others to give input or ask questions, which is the equivalent of walking past somebody's desk and saying, “Oh, that reminds me…”
Discord is also taking off. Its origins are in e-sports: Gamers wanted an always-open channel to speak with each other. But the service is now being used by anyone looking for a hangout. Think of it as a two-way radio station that you tune into. Unlike a conference call with set start and end times, the channel is always on.
If your marketing teams work with agencies, contractors, and other part-time staff to help with projects, they too can be invited into digital collaboration spaces. A digital office can, therefore, speed up communication throughout an entire project.
Speed isn't the only benefit. Digital collaboration is also more efficient, and it's easy to do. Teams, one of the core tools of Microsoft Office 365, offers an excellent collaborative experience. Colleagues can work on documents at the same time, store content and hold conversations in themed spaces called channels, and, of course, hold meetings.
In marketing, we tend to work across multiple projects, and being able to jump from one appropriate team space to another is like having a dedicated campaign room for each project.
We're all Zoomed-out, but that's partly because we're trying to do what we always did in the real world instead of asking what new options a digital approach can bring to the workplace of the future.
Online meetings don't have to feel like the opening of The Muppet Show. Virtual meetings can be even better than face-to-face in some ways.
For example, in traditional workshops, participants might generate copious sticky notes and paste them onto elaborate marketing framework diagrams. It certainly looks colorful, and it feels like work, but it often makes people focus on only their own contributions. The ideas of others can become so brief on a small piece of paper (and in illegible handwriting) that they get overlooked.
But if you take that process and have meeting participants generate ideas online—as a card in Trello, perhaps—then there's space to expand on them. You can also use mentions and comments to invite others to build on one theme instead of creating a parallel thread.
Communities and Connections
When colleagues aren't together in the same place, it's important to create a sense of community. But using team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack gives people the tendency to interact less with their more extended networks.
The scenario of a permanently hybrid workplace of the future means we need to get use to cultivating those connections again in new ways.
During pandemic restrictions, employees have more frequently wanted to connect around nonwork events. Some companies have co-opted sporty staff members into leading exercise classes online; others have had their employees run cooking or painting competitions.
Connection also comes from news, which can be either the informal sharing of personal news (births, engagements, new pets) or more formal company news shared through a corporate intranet. An intranet keeps people not only updated on company developments but also engaged with their successes, because they can see what's happening in real time.
Celebrating success is also important in fostering a sense of connectedness. Recognizing fellow team members or their achievements has the greatest impact on a sense of belonging, a study of 4,700 remote workers found. So if you're having a good sales month, let everyone know!
Just because more people will be working from home in the workplace of the future doesn't mean they will always be at their desk. As restrictions lift, we will be more likely to want to meet up and make connections—e.g., engage a new creative or public relations agency.
A growing number of employee apps provide interactive features for communities, communication, and collaboration on the go. Such programs will allow marketing teams to stay in touch and stay productive when mobility resumes.