TMCnet Feature
April 12, 2021

5 Tips for Creating a More Collaborative Workplace

How to Design and Execute a Collaborative Office Space

The workplace is changing faster than ever – particularly in the world of information technology, where new innovation is allowing businesses to automate, streamline, and reshape their systems and processes.

But in the midst of this evolution, it’s important that we never lose sight of the role people play in making a business a business. Without a collaborative team, it’s difficult to achieve sustainable growth.

The question is, how do you cultivate a collaborative workplace?

What is a Collaboration?

Collaboration can be described as working together to pursue a common goal or mutual mission. It’s the process of freely sharing ideas, providing feedback, and approaching problems and opportunities in a way that involves and benefits the entire team.

According to AIIM, collaboration involves nine important factors: awareness, motivation, self-synchronization, participation, mediation, reciprocity, reflection, and engagement.

Collaboration is a mentality that must be embraced by each individual on your team. However, there’s certainly some responsibility (from a leadership perspective) to make intentional decisions that foster a collaborative spirit and make it easier for your team to pursue a shared purpose.

One of the ways you do this is by architecting a collaborative workplace.

The Role of a Collaborative Workplace

A collaborative workplace is one that’s designed to make collaboration easy and effortless. It involves a combination of smart floor planning, company rules, technology, employee expectations, and attitudes.

When optimal workplace collaboration is achieved, you can expect benefits like:

  • Faster innovation. Lack of communication is one of the biggest bottlenecks in innovation. This can be especially problematic in large organizations where people have to work their way up (and back down) a chain of command in order to get approval for an idea. With a collaborative workplace, it’s much easier for people to interact directly with one another. The result is much faster innovation.
  • Better employee performance. When employees feel like they’re connected to and supported by others, they’re much more likely to perform at a high level. According to one study, individuals who are acting collaboratively commit to their task an impressive 64 percent longer than those acting alone.
  • Healthier employees. No employee wants to feel like they’re just another name on the payroll sheet. They want to feel like they bring value to the company. A collaborative workplace pulls people into important conversations and projects and helps them feel more connected at work. This results in a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
  • Greater profitability. When you add all of these benefits together, the net result is greater profitability. So while it may cost you on the front end, the ROI more than justifies the initial investment.

Sounds great, right? Well, before you can enjoy these benefits, you have to take the time to plan and execute. Otherwise, your hopes of having a collaborative workplace are nothing more than a dream.

5 Tips for Creating a Collaborative Workplace

Your version of a collaborative workplace is going to look slightly different than another company’s idea of what a collaborative workplace should be – and that’s okay. There are, however, some shared principles that remain true in any industry.

Here are a few of those tips to help you get better results:

1. Consider Gathering Spots

A collaborative workplace should be designed in such a way that interactions among coworkers are natural, spontaneous, and frequent. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by prioritizing gathering spots.

The more gathering spots you can have, the better. Avoid closed-off break rooms and focus on centralized areas where people can come and go. Large lobbies, outdoor patios, and cafeterias are all good choices.

2. Reimagine Offices

The typical office consists of heavily-partitioned cubicles and individual offices with large, heavy doors. And while there’s something to be said for giving team members their own private spaces to work (and focus), we recommend trying to retain as much transparency as possible.

Sometimes transparency is important in a literal sense. Rather than having solid doors that close and make offices feel like closets, install glass doors. The beauty of glass doors is that they block out sound while still allowing people to peer in and out. This provides an opportunity for collaboration without unnecessary distraction.

Depending on the type of office you have and each employee’s roles and responsibilities, you might consider switching from traditional “assigned offices” to first-come, first-served seating. By encouraging employees to switch up where they work, you increase the likelihood that new people will interact with one another.

3. Encourage Employee Choice

Today’s employees crave choice. They want some say in when and how they work. The more you’re able to appease this desire, the better.

One way to encourage employee choice is by giving them a say in when they work. By implementing flexible scheduling, you can benefit from having employees in the office during their most productive hours. Early birds show up and knock out tasks early in the morning, while others can sleep in and take advantage of those prime afternoon hours.

4. Create a “Collab Hour”

The vast majority of healthy collaboration occurs naturally as a result of putting people in the right places at the right time. However, there’s a time and place for fostering formal collaboration.

One idea is to create a daily “collab hour” where employees are required to leave their workspace and mingle with other employees. While there will certainly be plenty of personal conversations, the hope is that employees will share ideas and work on side projects with one another. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity to build trust.

5. Organize Non-Work Opportunities

Some of the best collaboration can happen outside of the office. Consider setting up a monthly non-work event where employees can gather without the pressure to be productive. Whether it’s bowling, cocktails, or attending a sporting event, there’s power in casual moments.

Empower Your Team

With as much change as we have in our industry, it’s important that you proactively look for ways to keep your team grounded and connected. By enhancing your office to create a more collaborative workspace, you can be more efficient and flexible.

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