So what is collaboration?
Well, traditionally collaboration would involve scheduling meetings, inviting attendees, reserving rooms and preparing agendas. However, in a modern working environments some of the best collaboration occurs spontaneously in unplanned events that occur to address issues as they arise in unplanned situations.
So, where does ‘collaboration’ happen?
In short, people work together day in day out, but they cannot be made to collaborate together. You can however, design your workplace in a way that promotes collaboration by offering break out spaces for short impromptu get togethers away from the desk.
That said, there is nothing wrong with a meeting around the desk if it has all of the resources and information required at hand. A simple huddle space can quickly be achieved by pulling up a few office chairs, or maybe workstations could incorporate office storage topped with a seat pad for quick and relaxed communications between team mates without the need for a formal meeting.
People will by nature seek out the most appropriate place to provide the right solution. So, if you are able to offer variety in the settings available for your team then you are well on the road to success. Perhaps if different work tools are required then a relaxed meeting in some soft office furnishings may offer an ideal solutions; or if more privacy is needed then an office meeting booth could be an excellent idea if space allows.
The thing is away from the desk solutions, be they formal office meeting tables, soft seating areas or other break out spaces will encourage your people to focus on the task in hand without the distractions associated with being ‘at the desk’.
Does collaboration sounds hard work?
It doesn’t need to be; neither does it need to be time consuming or draining on resources. With the ability to escape from the desk for a quick get together, great ideas can come from small clusters of just 2-3 people and often will take no longer than 15-20 minutes!
Encouraging spontaneous interactions
Promoting collaboration in the workplace does not need to be arduous or expensive either; it is all about encouraging and nurturing interactions to help promote best practice and innovation in your business.
Perhaps something as simple as a high bench against at wall with some high stools will inspire people to get together and discuss an idea that will benefit your business. This also gives people the option of sitting or standing informally with the potential for the use of laptops or other technology.
Remember, whilst areas for collaboration are easy to create, encouraging people to actually use them can be more of a challenge. You need to ensure that the areas you are providing are conveniently placed and offer appropriate tools such as power or data connections.
Implications for designing your office
Work is constantly evolving in its patterns and resources; therefore it is important to ensure your office design recognises these factors.
We have already discussed that well designed and located collaborative work spaces can work well for inspiring your day to day team. They may also reduce the need for permanent workstations, particularly for remote workers who are only visiting for short periods. Collaborative work areas give the ideal base for a short visit to the office and encourage interactions and updates with other team members.
It’s not all about providing solutions for office seats and tables though. Office notice boards and other display areas such as white boards can also play a key and vital part in collaboration. They offer the ability to share lists, schedules, charts and other records of progress.
Office culture is key
Aside from office furniture and other aesthetics, office culture is key to the success of encouraging collaboration amongst your team.
What kind of ‘behaviour’ is deemed as acceptable in your business? Are you ensuring that your staff feel comfortable with the concept of breaking away from their desk? You can create the perfect spaces to adopt the principles of collaboration, but if they are not being used you need to adjust the culture of your business. You must encourage your team to use the facilities available to them, and in turn your business reap the benefits of a modern approach to working.