Most employees enjoy the hybrid model of work because it offers the convenience of working from home without the accompanying isolation. In-office days provide much-needed socialization and collaboration with their colleagues.
That outlook quickly changes, however, if coming into the office isn't any different than working from home. Employees start questioning, “Why did I bother coming in? I’ve been sitting at my desk by myself most of the day. I could have done this at home and skipped battling commuter traffic, rushing my kids off to school, and getting all done up. What’s the point of being here??”
Pre-pandemic, coming into the office was just the way things were. Now people want a reason to come in. They want interaction and collaboration. It doesn’t have to happen all day, but it does need to happen. If being in the office is no different from working at home, your employees could end up feeling resentful and disgruntled.
It is widely accepted that in-person office environments are more conducive to collaboration than virtual ones, especially for impromptu, unplanned collaboration. (This type of collaboration often leads to the best ideas!) Office spaces that foster and invite collaboration fare better in this new hybrid world of work because they capitalize on what virtual environments struggle to achieve.
When your employees come into the office, they want to collaborate and interact – and not just in planned meetings. They want the water cooler moments, the spur-of-the-moment collaborations that increase productivity and build relationships. Providing that makes the commute, morning rush, and getting 'done up' worth the time and effort.
So, the question is: Does your office foster collaboration?
It’s a question worth considering now that your office is competing with the comfort and ease of working from home. The global pandemic opened Pandora’s box for the world of work and there’s no going back. Just like there was no going back after World War II necessitated bringing women into the workforce.
If you want to improve collaboration in your office, here are our top five tips:
1. Consider the needs of your office and staff.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to collaboration. Every company, every team, every space has unique needs, constraints, and optimal ways of collaborating.
Asking your departments and teams how they prefer to collaborate is a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to take stock of how your space is currently set up. What are its limitations or constraints? What are its possibilities? What can you get rid of to clear the way for more collaborative space? What needs to stay and why?
Knowing what your needs are and where you’re starting from are instrumental to figuring out where you can go next.
2. Provide choice. design with flexibility in mind.
People like options. Your employees are no different. Don’t focus on creating one super stellar collaborative area. Instead, provide several collaborative spaces for your employees to choose from.
Remember, needs change depending on what’s going on in the moment, making it important to design with flexibility in mind. There are furniture lines designed to be rearranged to meet the needs of the moment. Explore those options as you outfit your collaborative spaces.
3. Think of your office in ‘zones’.
Thinking of your office in zones helps create different areas for collaboration, as well as solitary, focused work.
Allow each zone to have its own vibe, while maintaining a cohesive space overall, and create visual boundaries for your different zones. You don’t have to resort to boring drywall. There are lots of stylish partitions out there, even ones that can move around. Plants are another great way to visually define a space without being stuffy or boring.
Overall, you want to create inviting, engaging spaces that employees will be drawn to. This breaks up their day, sparks creativity, and fosters collaboration.
4. Don’t forget the breakroom and the outdoors.
People need sunlight for health and vitality. When working from home, people love to work outside when the weather's nice - on their front porch, back deck, or nearby park. Creating an outdoor collaborative space provides the same opportunity.
Another thing people love about working from home is the ability to pop into a coffee shop and get some work done there. If you create an inviting, lounge-like breakroom with some great coffee and snacks, employees will flock to work there as well – either quietly by themselves or with a small group.
5. Schedule in-office days to spark collaboration.
Instead of using an arbitrary Tuesday – Thursday in-office policy, consider how you can schedule in-office time to foster collaboration. Bringing everyone together on the same day forces them to compete for collaborative space. If you schedule teams/departments to come in on specific days, it helps maximize collaborative productivity. Save the everyone-in-office days for team-building and culture-building opportunities.
For example, if you have two teams that need to strategically collaborate, such as Sales and Marketing, make sure they’re in together at least one day per week. If you have a team that needs extra collaborative time because of a big project, schedule a day when they’re the only ones in the office so they can have all the collaborative pockets to themselves.
You can also encourage teams and team leads to schedule their in-office days. Once you open yourself up to the flexibility of hybrid, possibilities for maximizing productivity and creativity become endless.
Getting Started is Half the Battle
Not sure where to start? We can help. Office Basics provides space planning and interior design solutions, as well as office furniture procurement and installation, including flooring. We use computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D renderings to help you fully visualize your new collaborative spaces before they are installed.
We work with respected and trustworthy office furniture manufacturers like Hon and National to create the vibe you’re going for at the price point you need. From design to installation, we handle the whole process. If you’re in the area, we encourage you to visit our showroom so you can see, feel, and experience the furniture yourself.