Recreating the Benefits of Colocation in a Hybrid Work Era

In today’s hybrid work world, can organisations still achieve the performance gains that came from colocating key departments? This post examines proven strategies to recreate colocation benefits across distributed teams.

The Power of Colocation 

Physically bringing complementary teams together has long been a go-to for boosting productivity. Here’s why it works:

– Accelerated collaboration and innovation

– Tighter alignment on goals 

– Smoother workflows and handoffs

– Faster decisions and problem solving 

– Stronger culture and relationships

Shell’s Exploration Success Through Colocation

One compelling example comes from Royal Dutch Shell’s oil exploration unit in the early 2000s. By colocating its geologists, geophysicists, and drilling engineers, Shell was able to shave 30-40% off its exploration cycle times. 

This multidisciplinary collaboration led to more drilling opportunities and accelerated oil field discoveries. Over a 5 year period, Shell added 50% more resources to reserves and discovered 3X as many barrels as competitors like BP.

Industry experts credited Shell’s integrated, colocated teams as a key driver of this performance advantage. Colocation likely improved the company’s productivity and cost efficiency by over 25%.

Strategies to Virtualise Colocation  

Today’s remote and hybrid work makes colocating challenging. But teams can recreate some of the same benefits through:

– Mandatory office days to work shoulder-to-shoulder

– Quarterly onsite workshops to strategise in person

– Site visits for cross-functional teams

– Video calls instead of phone calls  

– Informal virtual coffee chats

– Digital collaboration platforms

– Overlapping hours across time zones 

– Remote inclusive culture

With thoughtfulness, the human connections and performance gains of colocation can be simulated virtually. 

The Key is Thoughtful Balance

In this era, organisations must strike the right balance between technology and in-person interactions. Virtual collaboration enables remote work at scale, but nothing replaces the power of human relationships built through meaningful face time. 

Leaders should examine opportunities to bring distributed, interdependent teams together to spark the sharing, serendipity, and speed made possible through colocation.

Here are two questions worth considering:

What opportunities exist to reconnect your remote teams? Which departments would benefit from recreating colocation?