Instagram. Text messages. Skype. Continuous innovation across the communication technology space has made it easier than ever to engage with friends and family without being physically near them.

In the workplace, however, we maintain the belief that close proximity means happier employees and better collaboration. From offices to cubicles to open floor plans, the walls get thinner and thinner, yet collaboration gets harder and harder.

In fact, despite a quarter of people working in an open floor plan in an effort to embrace collaboration and 36% of managers spending 6 to 15 hours in meetings per week, 24% of employees still have a negative view of collaboration.

In Part 3 of our Happiness Index Survey, we uncovered how collaboration is transforming as the digital universe expands, and how it’s impacting workplace happiness.

The death of the cubicle

What does remote work mean? It's growing, but not as quickly as we think. Only 10% of respondents claim to be 100% remote, according to our survey. In fact, the most common workspace is a private office at the company’s workspace (30%), followed by an open floor plan in an office alongside colleagues (25%).

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Working remote wins the vote

While only a small portion of our sample works remotely full-time, there’s a significant happiness gap between those who work remotely even on occasion and those who don’t. Happier employees are 86% more likely to work from home at least 3 days per week than less-happy employees and 61% more likely to work from home 5 days per week.

Nearly half (44%) of less-happy employees report that they don’t have the option to work remotely. This suggests that the greater the flexibility, the happier the employee.

Happy employee, healthy collaboration

As we’ve stated in previous posts, effective collaboration is a key ingredient to employee happiness. When asked how they feel about collaborating at work, less-happy respondents are 50% more likely to say, “I avoid collaboration like the plague,” and more than twice as likely to describe collaboration as a “necessary evil.”

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Even though desks are moving closer together in an effort to encourage collaboration and engagement, nearly a quarter of all employees (24%) have a negative view of collaboration and don’t believe it’s improved their work performance or enjoyment. In fact, some people think that even less time in the office would boost their productivity. Over 65% of respondents believe working 4 days per week would actually increase focus and productivity.

Employees who use collaborative work management (CWM) software are 15% more likely than those who don’t to think it’s currently possible to handle their work in a 4-day week. Non-CWM users are almost 5x more likely to believe it’s impossible to complete their work in just 4 days.

Collaboration is more about process than proximity

While digital communication has taken off and is now accepted around the world, we can’t seem to take the training wheels off of remote work. This association between proximity and collaboration is somewhat valid, but there’s so much more to healthy collaboration than sitting in the same room.

Tools that support communication and remote work help build a clear process around collaboration. By having a place to execute on projects and ideas, you’re making objectives actionable regardless of where the team is located. Collaborative work management tools make working from anywhere possible, providing round-the-clock productivity and giving employees the flexibility they need to thrive.

Click here to download the full report

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