Enabling Collaboration in the Workplace of the Future


It’s never easy to predict what the future of work might look like. However, with so many dimensions of work and life changing rapidly because of COVID-19, it’s become increasingly clear that remote work and collaboration will play key roles in the workplace of the future.

Our recent survey commissioned in partnership with Angus Reid explored the pandemic’s many impacts on collaboration, employees and our collective workplaces. The survey found that in the rapid transition to remote work, 66 percent of respondents experienced an interruption in workplace collaboration to varying degrees, while only 33 percent were able to maintain a seamless connection. As social distancing measures continue to evolve in different parts of the country and globally, organizations will need to evaluate both what their office will look like and what their requirements for collaboration tools will be.

Emergent changes in workplace collaboration

At a time when employees are conducting more virtual meetings than ever, our survey showed a significant shift from 66 percent of organizations leveraging collaboration tools pre-pandemic to 92 percent during the pandemic. Furthermore, it is anticipated these tools will continue being utilized in the future, with video conferencing platforms most likely to endure as more than 77 percent of organizations noted they plan to continue leveraging this tool.

The vast majority of respondents (93 percent) expect their organization to continue leveraging at least one collaboration solution in the future, with 80 percent of respondents citing they are reaping the benefits of the current tools. Regardless of whether organizations move to entirely remote or a hybrid office environment, implementing strong collaborative processes will be crucial for organizational success.

A pulse on productivity, connectedness and employee well-being

From the employee perspective, the shift to remote collaboration brought on mixed results. Only 38 percent of respondents believe they are more productive, while 29 percent indicated a decrease in productivity compared to working in a traditional office environment. When it comes to collaboration, the picture is more balanced: 40 percent of respondents indicated that they feel more collaborative and that feelings of connectedness of have not changed, respectively, while 26 percent indicated this sentiment has declined.

Findings also revealed that the majority of employees (65 percent) are growing more fatigued. As remote collaboration indeed becomes “the new normal”, there is a need for Canadian organizations to continually assess the impact of collaboration practices to ensure optimal support for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Rising security concerns and increased risks

The pandemic contributed to increased awareness of cybersecurity threats, with 64 percent of respondents concerned about the potential of a data breach at their organization and 34 percent even more concerned now than before the pandemic. Concerningly, our survey revealed that 17 percent of organizations do not provide security training for employees. While the investment in tools to ensure business continuity is important, creating a stronger first line of defence against threats by equipping employees with cybersecurity training is equally critical.

Key barriers to effective collaboration persist

Our survey found that the common barriers to workplace collaboration remain. Although respondents witnessed a slight decrease in several common barriers during the pandemic, some expect these barriers to return to previous levels when the pandemic eventually subsides. Survey findings showed that the most common barrier is cost, as 49 percent cited this as a barrier pre-pandemic, compared to 40 percent during the pandemic and 46 percent anticipating it will remain a top barrier in the future.

Other common barriers include the perceived complexity of projects (25 percent) and not knowing where to start (15 percent). For Canadian organizations to effectively enable the office of the future they must find the right mix of partners to help overcome these barriers.

Where do we go from here?

As organizations navigate remote work and real-time collaboration, recognizing and understanding the challenges and opportunities are key to planning for the future. Here are some key points to consider moving forward:

  • Collaboration tools will continue to play an important role at organizations: Leveraging these tools will position organizations to improve productivity and encourage innovation while better meeting the needs of customers and employees—now and in the future.
  • Addressing workforce challenges is good for business: In order to truly thrive, organizations need to find new solutions to meet the unique needs of an increasingly hybrid workforce – now more than ever.
  • A robust cybersecurity strategy will help mitigate risks: Fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness among employees and the regular evaluation and update of security controls are vital for long-term success, regardless of what your office landscape looks like.

If you’re curious about the future of work and collaboration at your organization or would like to learn more about how to get started, contact our CDW collaboration experts at 800.972.3922 or visit cdw.ca/digitalworkspace.