The pandemic created an all-hands-on-deck crisis to drive online collaboration into every company. Now, many are discovering the benefits of rapid collaboration go far beyond simply working from home.\nEmployees and managers have a long list of questions about work in 2021 and beyond. \u2018When will we be able to go back to the workplace, and what will that workplace look like?\u2019 \u2018How many employees will work remotely and how many will work in the office?\u2019 \u2018Will we have to choose between the two or can we choose a combination based on our needs?\u2019\u00a0\nIndividual business leaders will need to ask themselves questions like \u2018How do I make the best use of office space?\u2019 \u2018Do I still need large boardrooms for staff meetings, or can I repurpose them?\u2019\nRegardless of each business\u2019s decisions, the coronavirus pandemic and workforce demand ensures remote working is here to stay. The impact of this transition varies by industry, market and individual business; many organisations have been challenged by the large-scale move to work outside their corporate firewalls, while others have thrived.\nBusinesses made rapid, tactical decisions to meet immediate workforce support needs, and in some cases, compressed long term strategic projects into a series of short duration sprints. In fact, many businesses moved much faster on their technology projects than they had thought possible.\u00a0\nMoving into 2021 and the next phase of the reimagined workplace, businesses can review their tactical decisions and determine what measures worked and what efforts were less successful.\nThey may consider:\n\nHave they adequately equipped staff to work remotely, including providing equipment options (such as headsets or speakerphones, laptops or desktops, and monitors if needed?)\u00a0\nHave their technology decisions and existing solutions made life easier or more complex for employees?\nHow positively did employees respond to technology options and why? How did suppliers, customers and partners respond to the organisation\u2019s move to remote work? What challenges emerged?\nHave they checked in regularly with staff by taking pulse checks and conducting surveys to determine how they are coping with the remote working lifestyle?\nHave they given managers the tools to support quality management practices and high employee engagement in a remote model? Do they measure performance in this area?\n\nBusinesses need to support remote, office and hybrid workforces with an effective collaboration and productivity platform. With many employees using multiple applications every day, they do not need additional complexity when working remotely. Removing the need for users to continuously change context and applications across chat, email, team conversations, collaborative content editing, or video conferencing allows them to focus on their work.\u00a0\u00a0\nTo meet this requirement, businesses need to deploy a platform that is intuitive. It should not require a large scale change management project to deploy, and should be familiar, so employees require only minimal instruction in its use. New employees in particular, should be able to dedicate their focus to learning their roles without having to grapple with complex collaboration tools.\nA consistent experience irrespective of how a user aims to access collaboration and productivity tools is key to the success of a remote or hybrid workforce. This consistency simplifies IT support staff workloads and ensures employees do not have to track down features that are not available to them anymore solely because of how they accessed the productivity suite.\u00a0\nA quality experience should also not be restricted to just an organisation\u2019s employees. An organisation must collaborate and engage with customers, supply chain participants and business partners. These broader interactions should also be seamless and high-quality. Businesses should consider:\n\nDo customers, supply chain participants and partners experience high-quality engagement or does technology hamper this?\nHow easily can our business share files or initiate video calls with other organisations?\nWhen did we last ask our customers, supply chain participants and partners about the quality of the collaboration experience?\n\nRemoving routine tasks with AI and machine learning\nBusinesses should also ask themselves how industry investments in AI and machine learning (ML) are benefiting their remote workforce. Is the collaboration platform taking advantage of AI and machine learning, and\u00a0 delivering \u2018helpful features\u2019 that save employees time by performing routine tasks, or providing content recommendations? Employees can then use this time to focus on more critical tasks.\u00a0\u00a0\nDelivering high-quality search to remote workers\nIn our experience, businesses receive extensive feedback from their employees about the challenges of finding information across the organisation. There are so many systems and repositories that have built up over time in many companies that it can feel like it's an impossible task. When staff are in the office, they can turn to a co-worker and ask them for help. With employees now working outside of an office environment, organisations need to ask themselves whether they provide a high-quality search experience to their remote workforce, or whether their staff often give up in frustration and decide to create new assets from scratch.\nBusinesses can no longer rely on search capabilities that can surface content in a single repository. All organisations have multiple information silos, and the next generation of workplace needs to provide a view into each repository employees need to perform their roles. Businesses may host critical information in file shares or in on-premises or cloud-based document solutions, or line-of-business systems. While companies can achieve considerable benefits when they provide information quickly to the employees who need it, they should also consider the additional value created by connecting data sources and building them into their business processes.\u00a0\nKeeping systems and data safe\nThe rapid transition to a remote workforce challenged many organisations to secure their information and assets outside the firewall. The traditional perimeter security model did not work when employees needed to work and share information outside the corporate firewall. Businesses then had to choose between allowing employees to work or locking down information to minimise the risk of security breaches.\u00a0\nWith security so critical, businesses can no longer rely on solutions that do not update automatically with the latest security updates or capabilities. Traditional patching models that rely on users to connect to companies\u2019 internal networks with corporate-issued devices no longer meet the requirements of current working models.\u00a0\nBusinesses should deploy a platform that is natively secured for work within and outside the corporate firewall, updates automatically, takes advantage of AI and ML to protect from new threats and is user-centric rather than impeding employees\u2019 work. It should enable a business to protect and manage its intellectual property without getting in the way of a user\u2019s tasks.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\nRemote work can also introduce a multitude of employee devices that may be used to access corporate data. Businesses need a way of registering and managing devices built into their collaboration and productivity platform to minimise disruption and ease the IT management burden.\nDriving innovation with Google Workspace\nBusinesses that invest in a collaboration and productivity platform should not only look beyond the immediate benefits it can deliver, but also ask themselves whether they are using the current platform to change the way they provide services or engage with their customers. We have seen exciting innovation from Google Workspace customers, including using the platform to create new revenue streams and streamlining processes to remove constraints from their business.\u00a0\nWhile some people may consider a collaboration platform as just video conferencing, email and content creation tools, it is so much more. The right collaboration platform can take cost and complexity out of businesses and dramatically improve employee, customer and partner experiences. Companies should consider reviewing their existing platform or products to determine whether they will meet the organisation\u2019s future needs.\nGoogle Workspace enables accelerated adoption due to its ease of use, innovation and opportunity through its incorporation of AI and machine learning to reduce the burden on workers, as well as comprehensive built-in security, compliance and management capabilities. It can also help customers realise the potential of information and data stored across the organisation through our enterprise search capability.\nAt Google, we are working with customers worldwide to design the next generation workplace that can help them thrive in the modern, digital marketplace.\u00a0\nLearn more about achieving true cultural uplift by powering your enterprise with Google Workspace\n Supplied by Google\nAbout Nick Schoeffler:\u00a0\nNick Schoeffler is Google's Workspace New Business Lead for Asia Pacific. In his role, Nick leads a team who help organisations use workplace technologies to transform their organisations, and achieve better collaboration and business outcomes.