Four Questions to Ask When Creating a Collaborative Workplace

Despite gaining momentum as a focus point for many business leaders in today’s fast-paced, device-driven workplace, the term “collaboration” has become a ubiquitous concept for increasing workplace productivity, efficiency and technology ROI. In previous decades, collaboration might have solely been tied to the in-person meeting – a place where captive teammates could interface and dialogue. But the advent of devices, social media platforms and collaboration technologies has blurred the lines of what constitutes collaboration and how it manifests in the everyday workplace.

Social media platforms promote a culture of sharing, where multiple different perspectives and disparate comments contribute to a single post or group text. Mobile devices empower this paradigm even more by enabling real-time, on-the-go digital interaction. In business, suites like Office 365 and Slack connect teams across the globe with on-demand digital workspaces that can be accessed from any device or smartphone. And tech pioneers like Facebook continue to push the envelope of how to stimulate collaboration in the workplace. The social media giant, for instance, offers extracurricular activities like art classes and woodworking to improve team morale and creativity.

These evolving technologies and mindsets have helped usher in new approaches to collaboration, but the challenge for many business leaders is understanding how these new paradigms can impact the day-to-day of their unique workplace environment. For many companies, turning the ambiguousness of “collaboration” into a process that makes a practical impact on their day-to-day work environment can start by asking four questions.

1. What Does My Team Need?

The first step to understanding what will empower collaboration in any workplace is analyzing the needs and challenges of the employee base. Companies may consider surveying their workforce about what obstacles or inefficiencies are preventing them from carrying out tasks and projects. Following the surveys, leaders will likely gain insight into what workplace adaptations to make and which technologies to consider. Companies should then make a short-list of possible solutions and pilot new technologies and processes with test groups before making full investments.

Evaluating the office setting may also be a starting point for meeting employees’ collaboration requirements. In some cases, adjusting the office space to include an open floor plan or individual huddle rooms may help solve communication breakdowns. Other times, more abstract solutions like changes to company culture or managerial processes might be needed. No matter what teams need, it’s important for leaders to gather actionable data and insight before entering into a cycle of change.

2. How Can I Leverage Facilities to My Advantage?

Companies should consider what’s already available in their current office or workspace, and re-think how to use it. More often than not, office spaces are inherited, challenging teams to make the best use of the space they’re given. By understanding the opportunities and challenges presented by their office layout or design, business leaders can make strategic modifications that empower their teams to work smarter and faster.

For example, a solution to a lack of communication on projects might be to convert conference rooms to “focus rooms” where zeroing in on specific tasks is the goal and use the office’s common areas to hold impromptu team meetings. This counter-intuitive approach to collaboration promotes a culture of flexible interaction by taking away the need for formalized, siloed meetings.

3. How Do I Leverage My Team’s Work Habits and Technology Skills Most Effectively?

Gone are the days of strict nine-to-five office hours. With the huge shift towards BYOD culture and mobile-friendly workplaces, companies should consider how to leverage these trends to shape their workplace around their employees’ technology usage and work habits. A mobile workforce with the ability to take meetings, data and resources anywhere can help promote a healthy culture of collaboration if teams are empowered with the right tools, processes and environments. An example of this empowerment might be to allow in-house teams to work remotely every Friday or turning external areas like rooftops or picnic areas into meeting “rooms” where employees can gather to have obligatory meetings in comfortable settings through the convenience of a device.

4. How Can I Encourage Technology Adoption?

Often the hardest part about investing in new technologies and processes is integrating them into everyday routines. This is where business leaders, executives and managers can play a key role in helping employees learn and adopt new solutions. If IT has installed a cloud communications suite to improve remote meeting quality, executives should actively use the system to promote benefits and best practices. If operations has designed a new communication workflow to streamline project efficiency, business leaders should take time to help employees understand the “why” behind the process change and regularly take feedback on how to fine-tune it during the early stages of adoption. These top-down adoption tactics can be critical to ensuring the effectiveness of new collaboration technology or processes.

The term collaboration might be ambiguous for many decision-makers, but there is no question about its importance in the workplace, especially as new technologies and workforce paradigms take shape. To create a collaborative environment fit for their unique workplace needs, business leaders should consider what their users need to be most efficient and productive, how their facilities can play a role in the collaborative environment, how to leverage employees’ device usage and individual work habits and, most importantly, how to streamline adoption of new solutions and processes by leading by example.

To learn more about how cloud technology is helping some companies in setting up their collaboration environment, read this article.