If the giants of the Industrial Era walked into a modern business today, they might wonder if it was a business at all. The corner office that was so coveted in their time doesn’t exist in many places. In its place is a collaborative, flexible work environment that emphasizes cooperation rather than hierarchy. That’s because everyone from business executives to the new intern recognize that today’s office is on the move. Workers are no longer content to spend eight hours a day sitting in their desk chair. They demand and are receiving accommodations such as moving walls, standing desks, and wide-open spaces that encourage interaction with co-workers rather than fearing a reprimand for it.
Work and Play Can Happily Co-Exist
Smart business owners don’t feel the need to bear down on their employees every minute of the day. They understand that allowing for a little bit of play helps people relax and focus on their job better after the mental diversion. When workers feel happy and appreciated, retention rates improve and profits increase. Allowing people freedom in design choice tends to make them take greater ownership of their workspace and pride in their accomplishments. Providing an exercise room, nutritious snacks, a library, and a quiet place to take a short nap are just some of the innovative ideas that can make going to work a more enjoyable experience.
Elements Needed for an Effective Collaborative Workspace
Designing a welcoming work area that encourages innovative thinking can be a challenging undertaking. Those tasked with the job should pay attention to the following four elements:
- There should be enough space for teams of up to eight people to meet regularly for collaborative work. The space needs to be cozy enough to be inviting and located close enough to each employee’s individual workspace to be convenient.
- The space should be designed in such a way that it inspires those who occupy it. A view facing outdoors and soft, natural lighting are two good places to start. It’s important that any connectivity issues are worked out in advance to keep frustrations to a minimum.
- Flexible space is a must in today’s mobile workforce. This may include a roving whiteboard, walls and furniture that are easy to move, and the ability for people using the space to instantly configure it to meet their own needs.
- While individuality is important, the space should also reflect the vision and brand of the company. Displaying past projects or letters of commendation from customers helps people feel connected to the process and to the end result.
Promoting a Team Approach
Whether they are naturally introverted or simply don’t enjoy the collaborative process, not every employee will embrace these changes. However, almost every industry stands to benefit by changing the focus from me to we. Smart business owners recognize this by providing co-workers the ability to communicate no matter where they are. Even those who work from home should feel like part of the team through the use of technology. People may need encouragement to work as part of a collaborative team, but in time they should come to appreciate the richness it brings to their own professional experience.