Improving collaboration among your workforce requires more than just switching from cubicles to an open office or installing a company-wide chat app. Being a “collaboration architect” for your business is about designing your physical office space, your office technology and your corporate culture to remove the barriers (whether physical, symbolic, or functional) that impede flow, communication, and visibility. The goal is a communal, open environment where organic collaboration can spring up naturally and where working together is efficient and productive.
Below are five keys to optimal collaboration that you should keep in mind when designing your office space and business technology solutions:
Enterprise-wide information sharing
Siloes are the enemy of information flow. To counteract disparate knowledge pools, establishing company-wide wikis, discussion forums or group chats can provide technology-facilitated central knowledge hubs for information sharing. Additionally, creating an open access physical environment with leadership in glass offices (or even no offices) in high traffic areas can promote accessibility across seniority levels, while an open office floorplan can create more natural interactions across departmental lines.
Movement, flexibility, and choice
Movement leads to opportunities for interactions, which in turn facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. Employees need to have a choice of workspaces and technology tools so they can perform their current task in the optimal environment. Provide a range of seating options and workspace types, from large schedulable conference areas to reservation-free smaller meeting rooms, as well as communal spaces, quiet areas, personal workstations and free address areas. And of course, be sure to have robust WiFi so that employees have the mobility to collaborate around the office. Additionally, providing the option for employees to work remotely offers even greater flexibility; just be sure your business phone service has mobility options as well as your Unified Communication platform, so that your remote employees can collaborate from afar.
Sometimes the best ideas are the result of unscheduled off-the-cuff conversations, and there is some evidence that spontaneity breeds creative stimulation. Designing your office with various communal hubs can encourage random encounters and engagement (ex. a coffee bar in a high traffic area) and can lead to unexpected collaboration across the office as people move around. Be sure to provide some small rooms that don’t have to be reserved in advanced so that people have a place available to meet ad hoc. Also, providing Unified Communications technology (such as instant messaging and video conferencing) supports informal online conversations with both in-the-office and remote work coworkers.
In addition to spontaneous interactions, however, you still need built-in areas dedicated to structured collaboration. Make sure you have a variety of schedulable conference rooms of varying sizes equipped with the technology necessary for presentations as well as phone and video conferencing.
Logical flow and balance
In the midst of all this openness and spontaneity, it is important to strike a balance between free areas and dedicated spaces, as well as remaining logical about how you are organizing everyone. You still need workers in the same department to be in close proximity for maximum efficiency. Look to establish “neighborhoods” or workspace clusters for teams often work together. If you have a lot of remote employees, be sure to provide non-territorial work-stations where they can “hotel” for the days they are in the office. Balance communal hubs with quiet areas, and formal conference rooms with ad hoc meetings spaces. Doing so will ensure that your workforce has the space and tools necessary to collaborate in whichever ways they find most useful.
With the right mix of physical architecture, technology, and corporate culture, you can create a modern work environment that fosters efficient and productive collaboration. If you need help with finding the right tech solutions for your business, from Unified Communications to VoIP, Allied is here to help!