It’s no secret that technology has revolutionized the way we work. Thanks to mobile technology, it’s easier than ever before for people to get up from their desks and collaborate anywhere in the workplace. Not only is collaboration good for employee morale and engagement, it’s extremely beneficial for the company as a whole. The more people are able to collaborate at work, the more likely it is that innovative new ideas will be born. It’s so easy for a casual conversation while getting a cup of coffee to spark an idea that solves a problem. In a 2012 study by Salesforce, 86% of people they surveyed said that lack of collaboration or ineffective communication resulted in workplace failures.
Despite the many benefits of collaboration, many workplaces are still better suited to solo work than collaboration. The transition away from cubicles and private offices to open layouts have been a step in the right direction. Placing desks in an open area lets people work by themselves while still making it easy for people to talk to others. But simply getting rid of cubicle walls isn’t enough to instantly make a space more collaborative. The 2014 article Workspaces That Move People, published in the Harvard Business Review, cites research which found that office utilization peaks at about 42% on any given day. But with thoughtful planning, you can naturally encourage collaboration, keep workers engaged, and better utilize your space.
Here are five ways you can help your workplace become more collaborative:
Create a Balance
When planning the layout of an office, it’s important to remember the different ways people work so that you can allow for a balance of working styles. Remember that even the biggest extrovert in the office is going to occasionally need a quiet space where they can be alone and focus on a task.
There’s a big range of styles of work that fall between working alone at a desk and having a meeting in a conference room. The more you’re able to accommodate the styles that fall in between, the more engaged and collaborative people will be. Spaces like lounges, indoor or outdoor cafés, enclaves, and other small meeting areas throughout the workplace are essential for creating that balance.
Now that you have an idea of the types of spaces you want to create, how do you want to arrange them? Ideally, you want to use as much of your space as possible, but it’s important to consider where your main work areas are. According to Steelcase, meeting areas that are more than 50 feet away from workspaces typically tend to go unused.
The Tools for Collaboration
Having a conversation is just one aspect of collaboration. Sometimes, you just need to plug in a laptop or grab a pen and write something down while you brainstorm or work out an idea. As you’re designing a workplace, make sure it’s easy for people to do things like this. Look for pieces of furniture that are designed for integration with technology. Inc. suggests creating idea boards, hanging lots of dry erase boards, or even painting entire walls with a dry-erase substance.
Sometimes, you get so caught up in your work that it’s easy to forget to get up and move around, let alone chat or collaborate with your coworkers. If you want people to collaborate, it’s important to give them reasons to get up and talk to each other. Food is always a great way to bring people together, which is one reason why cafés have become such a popular gathering place in the workplace, both to socialize and to work. A game area is another great option. Don’t underestimate the effect a casual, laid-back atmosphere can have on generating new ideas!
Set an Example
Old habits die hard. If you’re planning a big office redesign and people are simply used to working alone during the day, remember that it might take some time for them to start making full use of the space. If people are slow to adapt, you might want to encourage a few people to set an example by moving around the office throughout the day. It’ll only be a matter of time before other people start to follow suit.