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5 Ways to Improve Collaboration with Office Design

Updated: Nov 22

Collaboration and Office Design

Collaboration is essential in today’s world. 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Training, technology, and effective management are all crucial to successful collaboration. What’s often overlooked, however, is the role that the office has to play in helping your people collaborate effectively. Office design can play a central role in helping your staff work together by providing a convenient, inspiring environment.

If you’re worried that collaboration may be declining at your company, then improving your office design can provide a better workplace that helps your staff to work together. If your office is still mostly taken up by long rows of desks, then staff will struggle to collaborate successfully in a space designed for individual work. Making sure your office matches the way your people need to work is essential to maximising their performance.

A collaborative office design can also be very helpful if you are struggling to persuade your staff to come back to the office. In today’s hybrid working environment, the role of the office has become a collaboration hub. If your office is an outdated desk farm, then your staff will see no benefit in coming into the office. Making sure your office provides an engaging collaborative experience is crucial.

Every week, we speak to multiple companies about their office redesigns. One of the most common concerns we hear is how to improve the collaboration of their staff. We’ve learned that there are 5 particularly successful ways to improve collaboration through office design. In this article, we’ll explain what each one is, as well as how you can apply it in your workspace.

Add Hybrid Meeting Suites

While you may want everyone back in the office, it’s unlikely you will be able to get all your staff in the office all day every day. Trying to do so may even harm your talent attraction and retention. Hybrid working and remote working are now twice as popular as they were 3 years ago. To make sure your team can collaborate from any location, you’ll need to install hybrid meeting suites.

In a spare (or purpose-built) room, you can use screens and a video bar to create an engaging meeting experience, no matter where the attendees are. These can also be located in pods, such as the projects at Casio. If you need to collaborate a lot with people globally, you could even install a Hybrid Smartstage, for the full augmented reality experience!

Add Small Collaboration Spaces

If you think about large breakout spaces with beanbags and sofas when someone mentions collaboration spaces, you’re not alone. However, it's important to recognise that there are several different types of collaboration. Most of the time, your staff will collaborate in groups of 2-5 people, not 10-20. As a result, they need more friendly, comfortable spaces. It is also important to note that meeting rooms are not suitable for collaboration. They tend to have a formal design, more appropriate for exchanging information than working together.

It's helpful if your office has areas dedicated to collaboration, as this will help your people to get in the right mindset. It will also make sure they always have an appropriate environment to do so. A lot of office designs have small corners that are barely used. These are a perfect place to install a few comfortable chairs and possibly a movable whiteboard. Small poseur tables can also be an excellent addition, as standing up improves focus, energy, and creativity – essential factors for collaboration.

Add Focus Zones

While it may sound counter-intuitive, if you want to improve the way your people collaborate, you also need to give them a specific place to focus. This will help keep your staff productive by allowing them to get the right mix of collaboration and individual work. As a result, they won't be held back by either poor communication or a very distracting environment. This activity-based working approach will also help your people to use collaboration spaces exclusively for group working.

However, a focussed environment doesn't mean a desk farm. Visual, acoustic, and spatial privacy are all crucial elements of an effective individual work zone. Though some desks are usually appropriate, there are also other options for focussed zones that better match the way your people work. Stand-up pods can be a very useful place to take phone calls. Work pods can also provide a confidential environment for individual working.

Remove Walls

Modern office designs have far fewer walls than they used to. However, many offices still have more than they need. Walls create a darker, less welcoming workspace, so the fewer the better. Open-plan designs have a bad reputation for being noisy and distracting places to work. However, this is a result of poor acoustics rather than poor design. By creating an open-plan space, you will improve your collaboration. Speaking to colleagues and moving around becomes a lot easier.

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of partitioning in your space is to remove meeting rooms. Most meeting rooms are only occupied about 10% of the time, so this can be done without any issues for your staff. In fact, if you use that space to create collaboration zones, you can improve teamwork even more! Many offices also have unnecessary corridor partitioning that can be removed to make your office more spacious. Another common occurrence is too many executive offices. By consolidating these into smaller spaces or sharing, you can make your office a lot less intimidating to collaborate in.

Make it Customisable

One of the most important things you can do to improve the workspace experience of your staff is to give them as much control over their environment as possible. This means they can adapt their space to suit the way they need to work, and get a sense of empowerment that improves their productivity. This is one of the factors that has made homeworking so popular. By replicating that customisability in your office, you can further improve the way your people work together.

Most offices use fixed partitions and furniture that are difficult to move. By using modular furniture systems and zoning furniture instead of walls, you can create a space that your people can change throughout the day. Being able to move furniture and materials around so they can physically engage with their content and work better as a team can dramatically improve the ability of your staff to collaborate.

Improving Your Collaboration

If you're worried about teamwork at your company, then redesigning your office could help fix that. You can create an office environment that brings your people together and matches their workspace needs. Hybrid spaces will enable collaboration with staff and clients all over the world without excluding remote participants. Small collaboration areas can help your staff by providing them with an environment that matches the way they most often work. Adding focus zones improves collaboration by enabling activity-based working. An open-plan layout makes it easier to see and approach colleagues. Lastly, creating a space that your people can change to match their needs at that moment will help maximise their performance by giving them an environment that meets their office needs.

Want more office design inspiration? Check out our top 6 office design tips. We’ve collated our top design tips, including both evergreen and on-trend ideas, to help keep you on track during your next office design project. Want to learn more about how we can work together to improve collaboration in your office? We’d love to hear from you. We design agile workspaces around the people that use them, to enable them to become more collaborative, and productive. Talk to an expert today.

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