Whether your team is remote, hybrid or just digital-first, chances are you’ve felt the disconnect—the pain of trying to see and understand the work being done across your team.
It’s a problem that affects you whether you’re the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company or a brand new hire just starting your career in a pre-launch startup. And it’s a problem that was made even more obvious in the wake of the pandemic and the rising prevalence of hybrid and remote-first work models.
If you’re a digital worker, you’ve also dealt with the current methods of trying to solve this problem:
- noisy floods of app notifications
- continually searching through tools for information and project updates
- answering (and sending) messages at all times of the day—then waiting for responses—and
- enduring endless status meetings.
We all want to do good work efficiently. But it has become difficult, distracting and even anxiety-inducing for digital workers and their teams to keep moving the ball forward every day. There’s a constant tradeoff we’re making between awareness and productivity—but it doesn’t need to be a zero sum game. We need to automate some of the awareness so we can reduce the effort and distractions that eat away at productivity.
As more businesses move ahead with hybrid and remote work models, we need greater transparency in our digital team environments. Because if we could just see what everyone was working on and all the output happening from the top down, we could stop blocking one another and actually do our work—focus and get what we need to get done without having to structure our days around the constant distractions.
Why transparency matters in the digital-first work era
Collaboration is an essential part of teamwork, of course. In a digital work environment, team members are regularly:
- passing tasks on to one another
- co-working on projects, and
- status updating and reporting on work progress.
The problem is, it’s difficult to keep digital collaboration going seamlessly.
The average U.S. digital worker is moving between 13 different tools a day, according to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index 2021. That makes it incredibly hard for people to find the information and status updates they need from one another to keep working productively.
People end up scouring through messages, platforms and documents to figure out what everyone has done—and are doing—and to get what they need to get unblocked. Or worse, they just interrupt their team members for updates.
The average Slack user is actively using the app for about an hour and a half per day. That’s nearly 19% of an average 8-hour workday. And according to a study by calendar-blocking app Reclaim.ai, professionals average more than 5 meetings per day and more than 21 hours in meetings a week.
Messages and meetings can certainly be used for effective communication and collaboration. But they’re also frequently used in inefficient and disruptive ways.
So what would more transparency actually do, and why does it matter?
If we could see what our team members were working on and accomplishing in real-time—and over time—we wouldn’t have to waste so much time trying to establish that operational awareness. We could save time, maybe an hour or more a day, on simple task-oriented communication and interruptions. And then the interactions we do choose to have with our co-workers could be saved for more strategic and meaningful collaboration.
A better digital work environment starts with data democratization
All of this sounds great in theory, but what does it actually look like in practice?
In digital teams, we need to be willing to open up our work days to one another and share everything—our progress, our challenge areas and whatever falls in between. We need to see each other’s habits and processes; know when our team members are engaged in deep work and when they tend to take a 36-minute break to go pick up their kids from school. It all contributes to the picture of a team’s collective work day.
And this isn’t about a one-way flow of data—employees sharing their work data with their managers. We’ve all heard of employee monitoring, and that’s a different thing altogether. What I’m talking about here is full work data transparency from the top down.
Working this way will help teams operate more seamlessly and mindfully together in remote and digital capacities. And furthermore, greater visibility into the digital work environment eliminates the burden of productivity anxiety. Everyone on the team knows the work is getting done because they can clearly see the outputs. There’s no need to time-track or micro-manage. So each member of the team can focus less on proving their productivity and more on just being productive.
The future of digital work is ‘out loud’
This concept of a completely transparent digital work environment may take some getting used to and some change management for some. But as we continue on this workplace revolution journey toward more hybrid and remote teamwork flexibility, systems and solutions that enable greater asynchronous collaboration are going to be key to sustainable success.
Real-time visibility into the work getting done across our digital teams—or enabling digital teams to work together out loud—is going to create a more efficient and effective work model for the future.
Joel Abramson is the CEO of Produce8—a modern workforce analytics application that helps remote and digital-first teams work better together. He is also the Chief Strategy Officer and leads the corporate development team for Fully Managed—Canada’s largest and fastest growing technology services company. Abramson additionally serves as a Partner with Top Down Ventures, where his focus is on deal-making and strategy in the technology ecosystem.