Workplace by Facebook: How collaboration platforms are changing the way we work

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It’s been a year since social media giant Facebook launched its first foray into workplace communication. Ajai Sehgal shares how The Chemistry Group uses Workplace and the impact he believes the collaboration tool and platforms like it will have on our working lives.

As countless articles assert, communications are changing at an unprecedented pace. From the wonder of the mobile phone, to receiving emails on the move, to numerous social media platforms, time and space appear to have crumbled since communications technology came along.

The launch of Workplace by Facebook marked the true integration of social media into the professional setting. Instead of hiding social media browsing in incognito internet browsers, workers could now openly chat to colleagues across Messenger without reprimand.

For Chemistry, Workplace has served as a natural platform to facilitate the building of a community, despite our geographically dispersed workforce. It functions very similarly to Facebook, so as many of our employees came of age during the advent of social media, it’s been super easy to use and integrate naturally into their daily working lives.

The mere fact that some colleagues are sharing photos from holidays and weekends, during time away from work, on a work-oriented platform, demonstrates the real impact of social media-based communication platforms like Workplace.

Some may argue that it blurs the lines between time in and out of the office too much, but the benefits Chemistry has seen include breaking down hierarchies, building more trust across the business, and helping maintain a ‘love your job’ culture.

With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that Workplace may not slot easily into all businesses. Its informality may not suit the culture of a large blue-chip, corporate company, for example, and might not work for smaller businesses better suited to tools like Whatsapp.

The increased use of Workplace – and similar tools like Yammer – and the use of such tools outside of office hours, suggests that collaborative software is here to stay, and may eventually usurp email.

For Chemistry in particular, the introduction of Workplace not only brings in a familiar user-interface to younger workers but also ushers in effective communications organisation, offloading non-critical information away from email and making the experience of office communications more enjoyable.

Alongside being an effective way of organising communication, Workplace can also provide insight into engagement that email cannot. At Chemistry, we use data analytics to monitor our engagement in Workplace which, in turn, echoes our overall company-wide engagement.

One cannot be fully engaged at Chemistry today without being engaged in Workplace because so much of our communications happen on the platform. For example, when looking at two weeks in September on the Chemistry Workplace platform, there was a 3% increase in claimed accounts, a 4% increase of users with profile pictures, a 6% rise in active users, and a 5% increase in message senders. Overall, a consistent increase in usage, which translates to an increase in engagement.

For our company, Workplace is used as an extension of our work, office, and company as a whole, so even putting up a profile picture is an indication of investment in the company.

Once Workplace, or any other platform, becomes an integral part of your business process, its analytics helps the HR team to monitor and encourage employee interaction. Given that using Workplace is a natural extension for anyone who has used Facebook, getting involved and being a recognised participant as an employee has never been easier. This results in a far more engaged workforce and boosted productivity.

According to Facebook, over 14,000 companies are using the medium, and organisations are each finding their own ways of adopting the platform. For example, Rentalcars.com adopted Workplace instead of an intranet, and has used the tool to break down the hierarchies and communication structures that litter more traditional organisations, using the groups function to create a group where employees can pose ideas to the firm’s leadership team.

Whether it’s the likes of Workplace by Facebook, Wrike or Slack, these technologies are making a significant impact on our ways of working, creating flatter management structures, and allowing for more open communication. In an instant, miles are lost, and time is nothing. Issues can be resolved and questions answered in seconds, for all to see, and teammates can collaborate quickly and easily across the globe.

Ajai Sehgal

About Ajai Sehgal

Ajai Sehgal is chief information officer of The Chemistry Group.
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