Presented by Cisco Webex

A lot of ink has been spilled on how screens have isolated us and are damaging relationships, but it’s far less black and white than that. In fact, there are many ways technology has actually increased our connection to one another, significantly boosting how anyone can reach out asynchronously, in real time, whenever the impulse occurs. We’ve created the sense of a smaller world where people can start and maintain interpersonal relationships across geographic distance.

With technology eliminating both time and distance as obstacles to communication, 73% of employers say they’re increasing their use of collaborative tools in the workplace to support a far-flung workforce that spans generations and business roles. Research suggests, over and over, that communication supported by technology complements rather than replaces or displaces interpersonal communication.

However, earlier communication technologies weren’t terribly efficient at creating interpersonal connections. Impersonal email exchanges lack human interaction, and even conference calls bring together disconnected voices that are often, behind the scenes, paying more attention to things other than what’s being discussed.

However, technologies like video conferencing, where attendees are able to look at their conversational partners in the eyes, or online team collaboration platforms that maintain the conversation context or history, are changing the game. Collaboration grows, interpersonal connections grow stronger and more meaningful, and productivity increases.

The business benefits of high-tech communication

Technology that connects us has transformed how we do business, ensuring that an increasingly divested workforce can still have well-meshed, smoothly operating teams that function as harmonious units.

“Simply put, successful businesses work better because they have better relationships between people internally, and between businesses and their partners,” says Cory Treffiletti, Global Head of Marketing for and Collab Demand Gen at Cisco.

That kind of engagement is key in creating workplaces where productive employees thrive and the company’s bottom line sees the benefits. A recent Gallup poll showed that engagement predicted well-being. Employees who can communicate smoothly with each other are more engaged, more content, and build more successful social networks. They’re also far more likely to stay with a company where they’ve built relationships. That’s critically important if you’re an employer looking to compete for talent in high demand.

Positive encounters, enabled by effective communication solutions, help develop and maintain strong and productive relationships. And when colleagues feel empowered to openly and effectively share thoughts and ideas with their team, it boosts cooperation, collaboration, and innovation.

“We’re social animals in general,” Treffiletti adds. “Nobody likes to work on everything in a vacuum or a silo. This technology shortens those distances. It makes our world — our sphere of influence — feel a lot more tightly knit. It makes distances feel shorter. Overall, that makes for a better, more productive work environment.”

New tools bring new advantages

Here’s a look at the sophisticated new ways teams can leverage technology to improve their communication and collaboration:

Video conferencing. Being able to actually see the people you’re interacting with regardless of where and when is a paradigm shift, Treffiletti says. “What we start to see is that technology can be used to remove the distractions, to increase the opportunity to be face to face, and to really foster a better human connection, which makes it easier to do business together.”

When you’re on video, you’re much more sensitive to how you appear. It’s a cue to put the phone down, look up, and be attentive. You have to remove the distractions because you don’t want to be perceived as being rude. Plus, the ability to look your colleague or client in the eye, and focus on the conversation ends up, in many cases, producing shorter but more effective meetings.

Team collaboration platforms. These central hubs that allow teams to move beyond email to a place where they can chat live, send messages, collaborate on virtual whiteboards, schedule projects and meetings, and share files are building stronger teams than ever. They establish a better, more efficient, and more productive way to collaborate, and they offer members of a team a way to watch their project unfold, see and appreciate the contributions their co-workers are making, and reach out quickly for the kind of casual chat that builds relationships.

Digital whiteboarding. When you can get down to the nitty gritty, brainstorming or building ideas in a central place, with everyone collaborating and sharing ideas, you’re strengthening the underpinning of a team and teaching co-workers to trust each other and work together.

File sharing and screen sharing. Team members can share what they’re working on, whether it’s on their screen right now, or the project they’ve been working on, so that each member can feel fully attached to their project and very much part of a team. Being able to connect directly to a far-flung colleague’s computer and see the project through their screen makes that bond feel concrete.

AI meeting tools. AI can be integrated into video conferencing tools, and that addition is a big part of enabling users to focus more closely in their meetings. When AI assistants take notes and organize them, identify and log attendees, you get to pay far more attention to what your co-worker is saying. You can lean in more to problem solving with colleagues. That means even spontaneous conversations can be transcribed and saved as a searchable data asset useful to keep the whole team feeling valued and included.

AI tools today can also provide access to insights about who those people are in video conferences, beyond their names. Now you can pull up that person’s role, what they’ve done in the past, and what they work on now. You know why they’re in the room, and how they can be helpful to solving the problem.

“It’s activating things much more quickly, which prevents delays and makes initiatives operate at the speed of work,” Treffiletti says. “And what we start to see is technology can be used to remove the distractions, to increase the opportunity to be face to face, and to really foster a better human connection – which makes it easier to do business together,” says Treffiletti.

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