Updated November 2022
One key to happy employees is interpersonal relationships in the office. Many companies have begun implementing return-to-work plans. And it is the companies with strong communities that have met the least resistance. These relationships increase job satisfaction, productivity, and company culture. Employers can foster an environment that builds office interaction and collaboration, both through communication and teamwork policies, as well as office design.
While technology is designed to connect us more, sometimes it does the opposite. The speed of communication may be more efficient, but emails, chat software, and video meetings, reduce or eliminate in-person interactions. When employees are connected through screens, they can lose the sense of belonging and inclusion that comes from a rigorous project planning or brainstorming session. Striking a balance is important.
In our new hybrid realities, the solution may be in office design. A few large corporations are learning this and putting it into practice. Google’s cafés are strategically placed to encourage interdepartmental interaction. And LinkedIn recently rolled out a complete office redesign to better accommodate their hybrid teams. So how can you balance the use of technology that is crucial to hybrid teams, while encouraging collaboration?
Encouraging Collaboration in a Hybrid Workplace
- Include interactive conference rooms and project planning spaces. An idea wall puts collaborators in the same real estate to map out blueprints for the next product or service rollout.
- Add video conferencing equipment in larger employee gathering spots, so company-wide meetings can take place and include team members from all over the world. Make the quarterly meeting more interactive, with questions from employees and colleagues. Provide a platform for workers to stay engaged.
- Meeting planning software can be used in a variety of different ways. Some companies with game rooms or fitness areas with a racquetball court can use the reservation function of meeting planning to set up games with coworkers. Perhaps even a company-wide tournament would build a spirit of teamwork and healthy competition. And with hybrid teams, this software can help get the right people in the office on planned days.
How much we interact with our colleagues is all in the way we move. In a closed office, with the door shut, or when working from home, we may be free from distraction, but we’re also free from interactions. Encouraging movement not just in terms of employee exercise with a fitness area but with the flow of foot traffic can do wonders for your workforce’s proximity to one another.
Open office plans have their pros and cons but they allow freedom to include seating alcoves for employees to converse in comfort, a more expansive project planning space, or even simply non-traditional workstations without partitions, unlike cubicles.
Prioritizing community building is smart business.
Centralizing break areas gives employees a reason to get up and move, and they’re more likely to run into colleagues from other departments. Sure, everyone likes the coffee machine to be only steps away, but without the need to traverse more real estate, workers are less likely to run into people they don’t sit near or see every day.
Adding a café-like setting also encourages communication between departments. These spaces get their power from the fact that it’s entertaining to be there, and with people conversing over a latte or meal, it’s less stifling than a meeting room. By giving employees a place to relax and let down their guard, they have reason to voice ideas that may not be typical or even air grievances. Employees who aren’t given the opportunity to vent or even confront to resolve interpersonal issues with colleagues are going to sour on their place within the company very quickly.
Encouraging Collaboration and Well-Being
Encouraging movement has the added bonus of getting the employees in your company away from their computers. Even if it’s only for a few minutes. Provide pleasing spaces to walk. For example, around an outdoor water feature such as a fountain or a courtyard with a Japanese garden. This provides a place for employees to both exercise and refresh their minds. They might not speak to anyone while taking a break from their computers. When they return to their work area, however they come back refreshed and more relaxed. This fosters positive communication between team members. Some companies even have designated walking paths that weave through all the departments in the building. And in doing so, encouraging collaboration between different departments. Even if it’s no more than a hello, this interaction reminds each other they exist.
The office that communicates well is the office that grows and succeeds.
Get your employees up and moving, conversing, and generally interacting. Whether they have a project together or just a conversation, bonds form. These relationships encourage future collaborations and often innovations. Prioritizing community building is smart business. The office that communicates well is the office that grows and succeeds. It takes more than connectivity through screens. Encouraging collaboration in the workplace should be a priority for any organization that wants its company culture and teams to thrive. And sometimes it takes connectivity by design.