Collaborate this – By Sara Cameron

There is a common thread running through all of the professional development I have been undertaking recently, as well as the formal learning I have been undertaking this past year, with the Chartered Management Institute as I look to gain Chartered Manager status on my way to seeking election as FRICS.

The common thread is all about human connection and working together – be it connectography, partnership working, collaboration, team building.

We have seen the rise of flex space or co-working space over the last decade or so with We Work becoming a market leader in this space.

Teams are a common feature of working life. Projects, continuous improvements, strategy, programme boards, governance boards and operational or functional teams.

Most collaboration would occur through through formally scheduled meetings, having many participants, with the need for facilitative skills to guide and capture the collaborative outputs.

But fostering a free flowing exchange of ideas requires the right workplace. It needs to be designed with collaboration in mind. Collaboration is about getting people involved, and collaborative spaces need to embody this. Regardless of the task at hand, employees should immediately feel empowered, inspired, supported and enabled in the space to tackle it.

The rise of co-working is interesting in that people are no longer going to accept working in standard corporate space. its rise signals the arrival of a more convivial and social workplace, with a blurring of retail, hospitality, food and office.

Jeremy Myerson, WorkTech Academy

The rise of collaboration space seems inexorable with up to 30% of all offices going flexible by 2050.

The benefits of collaboration are clear.

In a recent survey 74% of respondents indicated that thinking, talking and brainstorming create the most value for an organisation. Collaboration spaces actively encourage this and promote interactions and knowledge sharing. When you operate in space designed to promote collaborative working it becomes that much easier to find the knowledge just a few steps away from you.

But not so fast.

Open plan offices were deemed a win-win for anyone looking to cut costs and spark collaborative working practices. After all open-plan is bound to boost morale and ignite free flowing conversations, right?

A recent Harvard study disagrees. It concluded that open plan offices have the exact opposite effect on workplaces: they actually kill collaboration and productivity.

72% less face to face interactions in an open plan office.

56% more email traffic internally

67% more instant messaging

Coupled with a fall in productivity.

Consistent with the fundamental human desire for privacy and prior evidence that privacy may increase productivity, when office architecture makes everyone more observable or ‘transparent’, it can dampen [face-to-face] interaction, as employees find other strategies to preserve their privacy; Rather than have an [face-to-face] interaction in front of a large audience of peers, an employee might look around, see that a particular person is at his or her desk, and send an email

Bernstein and Turban, 2018

We, the people, seek boundaries. I know I do. With increased scope and scale, smarter working, collaborative technology, open plan space, it is hard to balance interactions with the focus required to get the job done. You are getting more done with less. You have to create a balance between visibility versus presenteeism. You have to create empowered employees who feel they can opt in as much as opt out of the space to tackle what they have to achieve.

We are ALWAYS on duty these days and often working together has to be designed into our working days.

Its not free flowing.

According to another study, (Bloom, 2018), remote working shows a 13% increase in performance and improved job satisfaction. Remote teams have two things in their favour – limited distractions and extra time. Being free of factors like office interruptions or commutes – remote workers in their virtual offices – get more done.

Its not pajama parties – its potential!

One last thought.

Open plan offices don’t stimulate creative collaborations or enhance productivity.

People do.

Put your people first, and they will look after the rest.

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