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Reinventing how we work through digital transformation and collaboration

Nathan Isaacs  |  May 18, 2021

As Jim Kalbach likes to say, work is not an office it’s what we accomplish together. 

As many companies are now planning if and when their employees return to offices, the questions of what work is and how we accomplish it are top of mind. 

This week’s Human Insight Podcast episode is a roundtable discussion with Mariano Suarez-Battan, co-founder and CEO at MURAL; Jim Kalbach, Chief Evangelist at MURAL; Andy MacMillan, CEO at UserTesting, and Janelle Estes, Chief Insights Officer at UserTesting.

In their conversation, they discuss: 

  • Distributed collaboration
  • Digital transformation
  • Diversity and inclusion

According to a Pew Research study, before the pandemic, only 20% of people reported working remotely. After the pandemic, that number jumped to 71% as a result of so many people transitioning to a work-from-home environment. With that, 54% said they want to work from home once the outbreak ends. Our own research found 70% of US workers want to continue working from home at least part-time after the pandemic ends.

The shift to redefining where we work was accelerated by the pandemic, but the adoption of digital tools to support it was already happening prior to January 2020. According to a McKinsey & Company insights article, an October 2018 survey found that 85% of respondents wanted their operations to be mostly or entirely digital but only 18% actually were. “Companies that accelerate these efforts fast and intelligently, will see benefits in productivity, quality, and end-customer connectivity,” wrote the McKinsey authors. “And the rewards could be huge—as much as $3.7 trillion in value worldwide by 2025.”

“I think the old idea of punching a clock in and out at the door is definitely changed,” said MacMillan. “I don't think we're going to go back to that kind of environment anytime soon. We can empower people to use technology to make their lives better,  more productive, and more connected versus spending time in the car driving to an office in traffic.”

With a distributed workforce, as Kalbach says, digital collaboration will become your new headquarters. 

Suarez-Battan said they’ve remotely hired more than 400 people at MURAL and, as a result, they are team building remotely. And you have to do that differently than in the past. “But it is possible to build trust and empathy if you spend the time and make the time for that type of bonding to happen,” he said.  

“When you're distributed, you just have to be a little more deliberate about it,” Kalbach said. “And a lot of that expresses itself through the rituals we have.”

At MURAL, the leading digital workspace for visual collaboration in the enterprise, they’ve adopted a fun ice breaker called “Pick your Nic” which encourages participants to choose a Nicolas Cage character based on how they are feeling, from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil. (Search the web for “Nicolas Cage Alignment Chart”)

“As we start thinking about going back to the office, what we can’t do is go back to the office and be based in butcher paper and sticky notes,” Kalbach said. “We need to think digitally. We need to refresh our rituals. You can drive a lot of the culture that you want to have, and a lot of the outcomes that you want to have, but also get that social component, through rituals and updating our rituals to be more modern and more digitally friendly.”

Listen to the episode to get the full measure of their conversation. You can also tune in to our on-demand webinar with Janelle and Jim as they discuss how to optimize touchpoints between cross-functional teams in a remote work environment.

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About the author:

Nathan is a Senior Content Producer at UserTesting. When he's not producing UserTesting's Human Insight podcast and other human-centered content, you can find him making beer, riding on Zwift, and fixing up his 110-year old Craftsman home.