Often, it is a desire for increased collaboration that drives a business to pursue a new way of working. Leadership might decide that the organisation could benefit from cooperation between different entities.
This improved cooperation might shorten lead times or minimise time spent in formal meetings, amongst other benefits. With a flexible way of working, the goal is to increase touch points between different parts of the organisation.
Facilitating collaboration is one of the five overarching principles in creating a workplace strategy (Workplace Adequacy™ Framework). But how should you go about it?
Rather than forcing interactions, a workplace strategist should focus on creating the conditions that naturally facilitate collaboration between co-workers. Below we have listed some ways to boost collaboration within a flexible working framework.
Set intentions for collaboration
In an organisation whose culture encourages everyone to get to know one another and share experiences and lessons, a flexible solution can boost further collaboration. But flexibility in how the workplace is used isn’t in and of itself an effective catalyst for collaboration if it lacks a concrete goal for who should work with whom and why.
Even if an organisation wants to increase collaboration between its many parts in general, certain collaborations are more important than others. For example, it can be beneficial for a sales department to collaborate more with after-sales and product development. Or for managers to increase their communication with HR.
On the other hand, increased contact between an infrastructure department and a legal team might not lead to any benefits for the business. Or maybe it will? By clarifying which departments or functions ought to improve their collaboration skills, you can create concrete processes that lead to better conditions in a flexible office.
Preserve strong intra-group collaboration
While increased collaboration between groups may be a goal of a workplace change, flexible working can run the risk of worsening collaboration within groups. In fact, some research shows that flexible solutions can lead to the most important intra-group collaboration suffering.
This can have huge consequences for the business, as most units tend to cooperate primarily within groups – something that is desirable and important for the business to run smoothly. So even if you want to increase collaboration between groups, it is important to simultaneously ensure that internal collaboration doesn’t break down as a result.
Prep the environment for collaboration
Once you’ve established your intentions for increased collaboration and made sure to solidify intra-group cooperation, you need to build the right organisational structures to uphold them, while also creating incentives along these lines.
This could mean planning the work environment so that departments and groups who need to collaborate will naturally end up near each other when they’re at the office. Working with the optimal digital tools is another important component, as the right tech can be a boon for positive collaboration.
One step further
Setting your intentions, preserving intra-group relations, and prepping the work environment for collaboration are three key steps in facilitating positive collaboration at the workplace. It is also helpful for a workplace strategist to consider these factors early on in the transformation journey, in order to think about what kind of collaboration a company is aiming for.
If you’re looking for more concrete tips on setting these steps in motion, we’ve compiled a list of mini-articles each based around an aspect of facilitating collaboration – the how, not just the why.
- Building home bases – What are they? And how do they help collaboration?
- The connection between privacy and collaboration
- Let behaviours model workplace conventions
This article is based on the five principles for the development of a workplace strategy that we at WeOffice use to create bespoke workplace strategies. You can read more about them here.
References are taken from the book Workplace Strategy for the Flexible Office by Aram Seddigh. For more information on the book and workplace strategy in general, click here.
SlungaJärvholm L, PetterssonStrömbäck A, Bodin Danielson C, Nordin M, Öhrn M, Harder M, et al. Arbetsmiljö, fysisk aktivitet, hälsa och produtivitet i aktivitetsbaserad kontorsmiljö – en kontrollerad studie i Örnsköldsvik kommun. Yrkes och miljömedicin vid institutionen för Folkhälsa och klinisk medicin; 2018. Report No.: ISSN 1654–7314.
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