Designing a welcoming work area encourages innovative thinking, boosts morale, and increases retention rates. It also can have a direct impact on your company's bottom line. Now with many organisation's around the country, finally returning to the office on a semi-regular basis, human resources departments should consider how they can establish and encourage collaboration through the workplace, while still acknowedging physical distancing. Some of the key elements to creating a collaborative workplace are outlined below:
Create inviting spaces
There should be enough space for teams of up to eight people to meet regularly for collaborative work. Of course post COVID-19, the task of creating collaborative and joint spaces are more of a challenge but HR teams need to consider ways to safely allow for teams to gather and share ideas within the same space. This could be through utilsiing an outdoor space, or creating markers so office staff can safely know where to sit and stand within communal areas in order to safely distance themselves.
Bring the outdoors inside
The design of the space should inspire those who occupy it. A view facing outdoors and soft, natural lighting are two good places to start. It's important to work out any connectivity issues in advance to keep frustrations to a minimum.
Flexibility is a must
The last year has highlighted the importance of flexibility within today's workplace. As many people will now be more transient in their working patterns- perhaps only commuting to the office three days a week and working remotely for the other two - the office will see many workers coming in and out of the space. To ensure they can effectively 'jump in and out' transition from work to home, offices should provide furniture that is easy to move and ensure that each space is agile in terms of its technology equipment; computers, large screens, connection chords etc. so people have the ability to use and configure the space so it instantly meets their own needs.
Customise the feel of your spaces
While individuality is necessary, space should also reflect the vision and brand of the company. Displaying past projects or letters of commendation from customers help people feel connected to the process and the result.
Promoting a Team Approach
Whether they are naturally introverted or just don't enjoy the collaborative process, not every employee will embrace these changes. However, almost every industry stands to benefit by changing the focus from 'me to us'. The easiest way to accomplish this is by providing colleagues with the ability to communicate no matter where they are. A big consideration workplaces now have to face is how they can encourage collaboration with so many team members working from home. Organisations will have to utilise technology that can minimise the boundaries between being physically in and out of the office (video conferencing and virtual whiteboards for example) and ensuring regular dialogue is available to the team through chat platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack. Every team member - in the office or not- should feel like part of the team.
People may need encouragement to work as part of a collaborative team, but in time they should come to appreciate the richness it brings to their own professional experience. Companies that struggle to implement these changes may wish to work with a third-party consultant.