Today, people are spending over half of their day working with others, according to a Steelcase study. Collaboration is conducive to creating better ideas and increasing overall quality of work. In fact, executive leaders are convinced: 93% of them believe it’s essential to successful idea generation.
Despite the positive stance on collaboration, there are corporate barriers affecting not just employees’ work experience, but also output. According to the study, these are:
A. Access to People
B. Access to Information
C. Outdated Technology
From the layout of an office to the methods of communication, these barriers take many different forms and affect work. For example, the technology in many offices isn’t up-to-date, which limits team members’ ability to visually display their ideas and consequently slows down collaboration. Senior leaders (63%) tend to have access to more advanced tools like smart boards, but given that they use it the least, it doesn’t lead to impressive results. Only 33% of individuals reported having access to the latest technology, and 65% would like to use it.
Furthermore, most offices are designed to support individual rather than collaborative work. A majority of workers (70%) are still trying to collaborate in traditional conference rooms. “These spaces are usually enclosed,” says Christine Congdon, Author at Steelcase, “and often the standard conference room (cushy chairs around long tables) actually primes people for passive behavior, which quickly leads to disengagement and even negativity.” As Christine explains, static sitting tends to lower our concentration, and in as little as 30 minutes, lead to foggy thinking and distraction. This doesn’t facilitate collaboration, which requires presence, attention and critical problem-solving. There is scientific evidence linking creativity and learning with physical activity.
“Successful collaborations don’t just benefit a team and its organization; the experience of communicating and supporting ideas can also benefit people personally, building their confidence, passion and job satisfaction,” says Christine. While some of these issues tie to organizational structure and company culture, they can be tackled with the below considerations.
Design spaces that help people come together
“Spaces that encourage movement and allow for a range of postures promote better cognitive outcomes and emotional engagement.” Says Christine. Consider rearranging your office furniture or meeting rooms in a way that promotes active participation. Whether that’s allowing your employees to pace around the room or occasionally get up to stretch their legs during meeting, you’ll have a more engaged audience and a fruitful outcome by encouraging movement.
The critical characteristics of a meeting room are: fluidity, comfort, flexibility and physical proximity. Provide ample circulation space for comfortable proximity between team members and technology. Use light-scale, light-weight furniture to allow fluid movement; allow teams to feel empowered to take over the space and create a space that best suits their needs.
Encourage equal participation
The best ideas come from diverse voices being represented. In an ideal scenario, everyone has the opportunity to actively contribute ideas and equal access to where the team’s ideas congregate, whether it’s a digital or analog display. Build a welcoming environment with inviting design elements that accommodate team members.
The design of the space also plays a huge role in achieving equal participation. It can foster equal participation by allowing everyone to see each other, make eye contact and be at a consistent height. For example, team members standing side by-side favors collective thinking. Provide co-creation tools that allow everyone (even remote participants) to contribute to and interact with content. Integrate technologies that help speed the visualization process and offer interactive ways to evaluate ideas together. “Making ideas visible to everyone on boards or collaboration devices invites others to build on those ideas. Making sure everyone has equal access to express their thoughts fosters diversity of thinking and leads to better outcomes,” says Christine.