5 Ways to Create A Collaborative Work Environment

Image by: DT
By Dexter Lunde

One of the biggest changes that is more apparent in work environments in 2014 is the rise of the collaborative work environment. After the photos of Pixar’s studios came out, everyone has been going gaga on their creative and “open flow” office designs which breed innovation and collaboration.

So let’s say that you’ve been treating your business like a corporate machine. Every cog has its place. You’ve been making some money but your office just doesn’t seem like an inviting or creative place. Sure, creativity and innovation can come from anywhere (we can be inspired in the weirdest places) but if you build an environment which welcomes it, you will find that innovation and collaboration will find you at every turn.

So how do you build an environment that breeds collaboration?

#1) The Mentality of Your Team

You can do this one of three ways, you can either send out a survey (which, let’s face it, not everyone will answer honestly), you can ask your team members to your office one by one, or you can gather everyone together for a meeting. So what do you ask them? Ask they why they are there. Why do they work for you? What inspires them to work in your office?

Some of them may only be inspired by their paycheck but in order to develop a sense of community, to increase productivity in your team, and to create a more collaborative environment, you’re going to need something more than that. I discussed before (in this article) about the importance of having a sense of purpose when you go to work.

It is important in order to increase happiness in your office but it is also important in order to engage your team members in their work and in order to build a sense of family. Why family? Because they are all there for the same reason or similar reasons.

#2) Build Connections Through Community

While it is important to connect with your community, that’s not what I mean when I say “build connections through community”. I mean, that you should build connections with your team members through volunteering in community projects or helping the community in other ways. This helps your company in many ways, including joining team members through these bonding experiences.

This will create a sense of family which will allow your team members to feel that they can grow and adapt together as a single unit (in addition to their individual offerings).

#3) Building That Tin-Can Phone

Effective companies are like strong marriages; they are built on healthy and streamlined communication. You can create this by designing your office space in an open-flow format (I’ll talk about that later) and by building a relationship with your team that values open communication. Anonymity and ambiguity (on your part) are work relationship killers. It is a seed of distrust.

Effective communication is also about the exchange of thoughts, questions and ideas. When it comes to exchange, there should always be two kinds that are constantly happening in your office. The first is equal exchange. This means that the exchange between people is mutually beneficial. The second type is the exchange of diverse viewpoints. This happens when people with different backgrounds express their viewpoints.

Collaboration is fueled by these two types of exchange and will lead to more cooperation, a sense of accomplishment as they all reach for the same goal, and a better quality of effectiveness and innovation.

#4) Give Managers A Chance to Shine

You hired managers so that you wouldn’t have to micromanage, right? So let them do their jobs. Allow them the freedom to work their magic with their team and reward managers with incentives, give them rules to follow, and give them the tools they need to be able to create a positive work environment.

#5) Offer A Wide Variety of “Space”

There are traditionally, 3 types of collaborative space: traditional office spaces, specialty spaces (like conference rooms, project spaces, brainstorm rooms, etc.), and extra-curricular spaces (like cafés, outdoor meeting areas, and game rooms).

The most effective spaces are those that support a semi-informal, somewhat social, and small group interactions. If it feels too stuffy, team members could feel uncomfortable. However, if it feels too informal, team members will get too distracted. Think of comfortable chairs, open spaces, bright colors, and areas for team members to walk while they think.

If you need a bit of inspiration to help redecorate your office, check out these 21 Inspirational Collaborative Workspaces.

So what do they have in common? They are all open spaces with some kind of table in the middle. The seats focus around the table and there are plenty of places where everyone can take notes. Even the places that have enclosed rooms have walls and doors made of glass. Some of those places don’t even have doors. They may be open flow work spaces, or the dividers could be curtains that are strung up across the room.

Now it’s your turn. What kinds of spaces do you find most effective when coming up with creative ideas? What work environments help you think? What do you have in your office?