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December 8, 2023
Navigating Digital Engagement and Collaboration at Intelligent Futures

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way we work, forcing many companies to adopt remote work models and digital collaboration tools almost overnight. As we gradually move towards a post-pandemic world, many organizations are grappling with how to effectively return to physical workspaces while incorporating the lessons learned during the remote work era, and Intelligent Futures is no exception. Our team is now settling into Kensington Corner - our new mixed-use, all-electric home. It provides a unique opportunity to structure the rhythms of our team and the physical space where we gather and collaborate. This post dives into how our team is navigating physical and digital spaces and ways of working. 

Kensington Corner: the new home of Intelligent Futures.

Looking at the pros and cons

Intelligent Futures has thoroughly evaluated the benefits and challenges experienced during the remote work period, along with the results of the four--day work week experiment we launched in 2022. After much consideration, we have decided to adopt flexible work options as we prepare to move into Kensington Corner. The benefits will include an improved work-life balance, flexible commuting options and expanded opportunities for collaboration. We also expect that some common remote work challenges like communication barriers, team cohesion and healthy work boundaries will be lessened when we are back working together in the same physical space. 

Creating a Hybrid Work Approach

To make these changes happen, IF has developed a hybrid work model, combining remote and in-office work at Kensington Corner. The new flexible work options give the team more control over their schedules, enabling them to manage personal and professional commitments better. Studies have shown that this approach can increase job satisfaction and reduce stress levels, ultimately benefiting employees, the company and the clients and communities we serve. Flexible commuting options are an important consideration, too. By allowing employees to work remotely or choose alternative commuting schedules, you can alleviate some of the stress associated with traditional commuting. This increases employee productivity and satisfaction, as well as reducing traffic congestion and negative environmental impacts.

In imagining this new hybrid work model, we considered the following areas that will be key factors in our process:

Core collaboration hours

Building on the research we have been watching, the team established ‘core collaboration hours.’ Within a hybrid approach to time, these hours are when the IF is available to one another every day. This strikes the necessary balance between flexibility and reliability, where team members know that they can connect and collaborate at a set time. The team also agreed that physical presence at Kensington Corner is required at the start and end of our week. 

Rethinking meetings

Complementing core collaboration hours, we have also revisited meetings. So many of our collaborators across organizations complain about spending their lives in meetings, but don’t have a way to escape the treadmill. We have adopted a framework that allows us to decide between synchronous meetings, hybrid meetings and asynchronous communication. This helps reduce the time spent in meetings (thus allowing us more focused time for impactful work) and allows us to be more intentional about when we gather and why we are doing it. 

The IF Meeting Framework (adapted from Future Forum).

Digital collaboration tools

Digital collaboration tools are vital in remote work success and essential in hybrid work environments. Equipping our team with reliable and user-friendly tools for video conferencing, project management, file sharing and messaging is a key component of our successful transition to hybrid collaboration. Tools like Mural, Loom, Asana, and Slack will continue to bolster seamless communication and collaboration. 

Reinforce communication channels

Open and transparent communication is crucial during the transition back to physical workspaces. Establishing clear channels for sharing updates, company-wide announcements, and project progress is essential. Intelligent Futures’ culture of open dialogue empowers employees to provide feedback and to express their concerns. Communicating proactively helps to ensure everyone stays informed and engaged, regardless of their work arrangement. Using tools like voice memos and videos allows for more nuanced asynchronous communication, which works within the hybrid approach to time management and meeting design.

Foster a culture of flexibility and trust

To successfully incorporate remote and flexible work options, we are cultivating a culture of flexibility and trust. IF encourages employees to find a work schedule that suits their needs while ensuring they are available for necessary collaboration and meetings. Trusting our team members to deliver results—regardless of their physical presence in the office— promotes a sense of ownership and responsibility that has far-reaching benefits for individual team members and the entire organization. 

Regularly evaluate and adapt

IF doesn’t shy away from making adjustments to policies, communication strategies, or tools if it means we can better ensure a seamless and productive work environment. Our team regularly monitors the effectiveness of our work models and is committed to adapting as needed. Regularly gathering feedback from staff to identify areas of improvement and address challenges promptly is a key component to ensuring the success of our approaches. 

Let’s see where this takes us

At Intelligent Futures, we pride ourselves on our willingness to try new things. We also aren’t afraid to shift gears when necessary. As we pivot back to a physical workspace, incorporating remote and flexible work options is a strategic move, acknowledging the benefits and lessons learned during our collective shift to remote work. It’s our belief that this transition will empower employees, drive productivity, and create a thriving workplace in the new era of work. We’ll keep you posted on our progress!