Promoting Collaboration in the Workplace

Jo Horbury

Modern office design is no longer a one size fits all solution. Individuals in the workplace work in their own unique way, which as a result means that in order to work more efficiently as a business, your offices needs to be designed in a way that caters for all needs. A large part of this, and one of the most significant emerging trends in office design, is increasing collaboration between members and teams in the workplace through design and furniture.

Re-thinking Open Plan

Traditionally, the go to solution for trying to enhance collaboration between employees has been the open plan office but the implementation has been too widespread and it is essentially a plaster and not a cure for collaborative work. In order for workers to collaborative effectively they initially need privacy in order to process the required information and for ideas to generate.

The open plan office has removed privacy in the workplace and with the proliferation of mobile devices people are always on, always available, never unreachable. For this reason it is understandable why since 2008, the number of people who are finding it harder to concentrate at their desk has increased by 16%.

Opening the Cubicle Doors

Like the open-plan office, the cubicle office design was a way of giving employees segmentation and privacy but by shutting employees away you remove the ability of chance encounters and it those situations where true collaboration takes place.

So what is the solution? The solution is to plan the office space strategically, giving employees autonomy of choice of workspace and there are different models that can implemented. Incorporating the following elements into the design:

  •  Strategic Planning – The key step in the process of collaboration is the strategic planning of your office space, factoring in areas for focus as well as places where collaboration can easily and spontaneously take place.

  • Intentional Traffic Funnels – This is something that was harnessed by Google brilliantly! Incorporate an area where all members of the team have to work through, this way people who wouldn’t usually meet bump into each other. Not only does this help boost team bonding and morale but it also helps instigate spontaneous collaboration.

  • Break Out Points – Break out points are a great way of inspiring chance meetings between employees which can spark innovative new ideas for the business.

  • Enclosed Spaces – All employees should be entitled to utilise enclosed spaces, many individuals function more productively when they have privacy and therefore these should be implemented by need and not by hierarchy.

  • Semi-Enclosed Spaces – Rather than being fully enclosed, semi-enclosed or shielded spaces are an effective way of bring an element of privacy to open plan spaces, semi-enclosed can be achieved for instance using furniture, portable screens and partial-height walls. A great example of how this can be achieved is using huddle pods.