Over the past two decades, collaboration has risen from buzzword-status to being a core part of any business strategy. Organizations have seen firsthand the value of collaboration and the importance of facilitating and encouraging collaboration in the workplace.
When an independent consulting firm asked Google Workspace users how they get work done, 92 percent answered “workplace collaboration.” These days, with the help of technology, employees write documents together, track projects together, share feedback and ideas with each other… Overall, they find ways to get the work done. Together.
Despite the growth and respect collaboration has garnered, not everyone truly understands what collaboration is and how to improve it. The concept has been through trial and error, employed in different businesses and fields. By now, we have a pretty good understanding of what helps and what doesn’t.
What is collaboration?
Essentially, the concept of collaboration is a game of football instead of golf. In golf, you’re a solo player — you play for your own score and your own success.
In football, every player counts. What’s more, they agree upon game plans and strategize how each player supports the team as a whole — there’s no “I” in “team.”
As for office collaboration, it’s not just the teammates who collaborate — it’s the coaches too. Collaboration can be an effective tool for teammates, managers, manager’s managers… Anyone working in the same field, on the same projects, can be connected through regular collaboration.
The benefits of collaboration
Many minds are better than one. Collaboration can spark innovation as one teammate builds on the ideas of another, or a manager guides their employee to new heights. Employees working as a team often come to safe and logical decisions faster and more reliably than individuals working alone.
Check out our “how to improve collaboration and productivity” article for tips on increasing workplace productivity.
On another note, collaboration can spark employee satisfaction and a sense of belonging within the company. Employees who have regular contact with and support from their teammates enjoy the company environment and become connected to their team. Also, employees feel empowered through collaboration. With the help of teammates, they have solid directions, goals, and also appreciation when the goals are met.
Next, the collaboration also facilitates the sharing of knowledge. More experienced employees have opportunities to share their expertise with younger members and younger employees share their fresh perspectives.
Collaboration within a company can also improve a company’s product or service. If teammates are on the same page and regularly updated, they can more easily keep up with customer needs and requests.
In the end, these recipes all equal growth: growth in talent, company loyalty, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
Principles of effective collaboration
When it comes to teams, every position matters. Just as a Quarterback, running back, and wide receiver have parts to play in football, the following principles are essential to collaboration.
It takes time and encouragement for any employee to feel confident collaborating with their teammates. Therefore, a positive, encouraging environment is essential to boost office collaboration.
Accountability goes both ways: between teammates, and managers. Employees need to take the initiative and contribute. Whether their contribution is idea sharing or volunteering to help their teammates, employees need to foster a collaborative environment just as much as managers do.
One reason why collaboration is so powerful in the workplace is that it provides transparency. Employees know what projects their teammates are working on and, ideally, they know how their projects fit into the company as a whole.
Transparency helps employees stay on track and generate new, better ideas for their projects. Not to mention, employees feel connected, as if their contributions matter to the company as a whole.
A key part of generating a positive office spirit is optimism. Turn every mishap and every problem into a learning opportunity. If mistakes are met with scorn and disappointment, employees will not only lose confidence in their skill, but also hesitate before admitting mistakes in the future.
Managers need to offer recognition when their employees do well. Such recognition helps employees know their hard work is appreciated.
There are many layers to healthy relationships within a collaborative environment. Ultimately, employees should feel psychologically supported.
This psychological support mainly comes from trust among teammates and an open environment of acceptance. The best way for employees to trust each other is to connect with them. Make sure they have the right meeting spaces, online conferencing tools, and other resources to help develop relationships.
Keep in mind: there is a need for moderation.
Collaboration is like adding cheese to pizza. Most people prefer more… and more… and more cheese until the pizza is practically oozing. However, lay on enough cheese and the pizza won’t really be a pizza anymore.
Before long you’ll have soggy pizzas and unhappy staff and customers. With that in mind, make sure there’s a reason or benefit to the collaboration going on in your office. As much as employees need to work together, they also need to be confident and independent enough to take the reins independently.
Pushing employees to collaborate on small, simple tasks such as writing an email, booking a meeting, or generating a campaign will just kill their enthusiasm and drive. In short, too much of a good thing can sour the recipe.
Obstacles to effective collaboration
Many managers don’t see the connection between their actions and how they impact collaboration until it’s too late. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:
Micromanaging is the venom to the “moderation” principle. Rather than let employees become independent and take the reins on their own projects, managers intervene and micromanage.
Overworked employees have little time, space, or breathing room for collaboration. Too much work causes a disconnect in the employee’s strategy.
What’s more, work overload leaves little room for employees to be recognized for a job well done.
Nothing kills workplace engagement as abruptly as negativity. Negativity from teammates or managers alike stunts collaboration and an employee’s will to participate.
Companies must provide the appropriate meeting spaces or technologies to support collaboration. Otherwise, employees will lose their vigor for meeting and working together.
How to improve workplace collaboration
The search for ways to improve collaboration is endless. As new technologies emerge, collaboration tools are getting better and better.
Still, technology aside, every company has to lay the foundations for collaboration before expecting any technologies to help.
Accountability can be easily discouraged with mismanagement. Helping your employees feel recognized and supported, through thick and thin, can generate a natural sense of accountability among teammates.
Encourage transparency from below and above. Meaning, don’t simply expect employees to report to their managers, but managers should keep their employees in the loop of what’s happening within the company.
If negativity kills workplace engagement, optimism increases it. Even if an employee makes a mistake, it’s key for managers to shake off the event and use the opportunity as a learning experience.
On a more positive note, employees should be regularly recognized for their achievements.
Cultivate a team spirit
It’s human nature to follow a ringleader. Managers need to set an example for positive, encouraging relationships, free of discrimination, to encourage their employees to do the same.
Support the connection
While Slack, Teams, and Google Hangouts are working on connecting people remotely, the office is being forgotten.
After a year and a half of remote work, many companies are implementing flexible work practices. With flexible work on the horizon, The Harvard Review believes that companies should focus office spaces to “be of highest value to your team.”
Therefore, it’s time to focus on making the in-office experience as seamless as possible.
Consider the Joan 6 Pro, for example. The device works primarily as a low-energy, battery-powered room booking system. The Joan 6 Pro display shows employees which rooms are available and when they are unavailable.
Picture this: in a hybrid workspace, few employees have designated desks and workstations. Therefore, it’s tricky to find an available workspace without booking in advance. An office meeting room booking system can help eliminate room squatters and interruptions.
The Joan 6 Pro device runs up to six months on a single charge. Because of its wireless nature, the display can be mounted on nearly any surface via a smart magnetic mount.
What’s more, the Joan booking system syncs to your in-office calendars, making a seamless integration with your office space.
With the proper ground rules in place, it’s time to look to technology to advance collaboration within your organization.
Learn how a major Dutch company transitioned to hybrid work with Joan or contact us directly to find out how Joan can help your transition to a flexible workspace.