No matter where you work, collaboration is important. In fact, the Steelcase Active Collaboration study found that 97 percent of global workers believe teamwork is crucial to company success, while 93 percent say it helps generate better ideas.

That being said, there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding collaboration and how it works. Some people define collaboration as being in the same room as other people, but in reality, collaboration is far more complex than that. 

Here at Egyptian Workspace Partners, we know how challenging it can be to design for successful collaboration in your workspace, which is why we're here to help you overcome barriers and guide you through the process, every step of the way. 

In this article, we'll take a look at all the ways you can design a workspace that supports collaboration and allows your employees to come together, solve problems and generate game-changing ideas.

5 Ways to design for Collaboration in the workplace

1. Make it easy to book space with room scheduling systems 

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Office workers spend at least 15 minutes a day searching for the right place to collaborate. It's almost as if you have extra work to do before you can get together with your colleagues and tackle your real work for the day.  

So, what's 15 minutes? Well, that time can quickly add up when you're talking about thousands of employees over hundreds of days per year. It's a significant loss in productivity and it can make people feel anxious or unsure, which are hardly the conditions for collaborative work. 

People need a simple, intuitive user experience to find and book the space they need, as soon as they need it. That way, they can spend more time connecting with colleagues and less time looking for space to collaborate. 

Fortunately, there is a solution: a room scheduling system. This device seamlessly connects to your email calendar so open spaces are always available for booking, whether you want to schedule a meeting right away or two weeks in advance. 

Room scheduling systems are usually located outside the meeting room and have a touch panel to display real-time information, such as a full schedule for a day and room availability. 

Design Considerations

  • Install room scheduling systems so people can easily reserve meeting spaces from their desk or device
  • Use an advanced scheduling system like Steelcase Room Wizard or Crestron Room Scheduling to gather real-time data and make it easy to book space
  • Customize your system with customization options, like a logo or color palette, to reflect your brand and culture

2. Offer an Ecosystem of Zones

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According to a 2018 Steelcase study, 51 percent of global workers say they need an escape from working in the same place during the day, whether they were alone or collaborating with others.

On top of that, the study also discovered 43 percent of people believe informal spaces can help build trust. They're looking for informal, inspiring spaces to work with others and want to build deeper relationships with colleagues.

Now, employees need a broad ecosystem of spaces so they have more choice and control over where and how they collaborate. These spaces range from formal meeting rooms and lounge areas, to informal touchdown spots and huddle spaces.

Additionally, these collaboration spaces should support a diverse range of privacy options and postures, so employees can collaborative effectively without compromising their physical, cognitive or emotional wellbeing

Design Considerations

  • Provide a mix of reservable and on-demand individual spaces for planned and impromptu interactions 
  • Support users based on their work modes, mood and personal preference by providing a variety of settings
  • Provide for privacy experiences with a dedicated quiet area where users can focus and rejuvenate
  • Use light-scale furniture to allow teams to create a space that fits their needs and provide seating that encourages perching or standing postures 

3. Shift from fixed to fluid with flexible furniture solutions 

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In today's day and age, the most successful teams are close-knit units. They're constantly exchanging ideas and information to tackle complex problems, and they work in rapid cycles to move faster, be more innovative and drive growth. 

It's for this reason that agile teams need the flexibility to change their day-to-day activities. They should to be able to change how they work, whether it's participating in workshops or filling walls and whiteboards with sticky notes or materials.  

To foster collaboration, business leaders should provide their employees with flexible furniture solutions, like architecture, furniture and technology, so they can adapt their space as fast as possible without increasing their real estate footprint

With flexible solutions, the opportunities for collaboration are endless. Teams can rearrange tables and whiteboards to create dynamic neighborhoods, or even divide the office space into smaller breakout areas for brainstorming and idea sharing. 

Design Considerations

  • Incorporate mobile furniture solutions like Steelcase Flexso you can easily and quickly rearrange desks, tables, carts and markerboards on short notice 
  • Opt for modular walls that provide you with the flexibility to reconfigure your workspace and adapt to changing business needs

4. Design for distributed collaboration

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Teamwork is a lot harder than it used to be. In the post-COVID world, companies are adopting hybrid remote and in-person work strategies to keep their employees safe, meaning distributed teams are the new normal. 

Distributed teams rely on technology for day-to-day collaboration. However, if the technology isn't working correctly, the company falls behind and the employees feel strained, both mentally and physically. 

Now more than ever, distributed teams need fixed places to come together and collaborate. These spaces should be inspiring, high-performing and provide easy access to integrated technology like large-scale collaboration devices and videoconferencing solutions.

Most importantly, these spaces must support distributed workforces. When the right technologies are brought into the workplace in the right ways, distributed teams are more likely to build trust and generate ideas that drive growth and innovation. 

Design Considerations

  • Choose a conferencing solution like CrestronFlex with touch-screen capabilities and the ability to collaborate on any platform for seamless collaboration 
  • Use similar tools and technology controls in all spaces, both on-site and at home, to help distributed teams collaborate and communicate effectively 
  • Install videoconferencing solutions and collaboration tools onto all employee desktops, laptops and mobile devices 
  • Consider camera and microphone placements carefully, so all users can be clearly audible and stay on-camera without disrupting the flow of information 
  • Provide co-creation tools, such as large-scale collaboration devices, that make ideas visible and allow everyone to contribute to and interact with content 

5. create a cafeteria that caters to collaboration 

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Today's workplace cafeteria is more than a spot to eat lunch or grab a cup of coffee. It's a popular meeting place where people come together, seek nourishment, socialize and collaborate with colleagues. 

Unlike a typical corporate cafeteria, this reimagined cafeteria has a home-like feel, transforms underutilized real estate and fosters employee productivity by providing destinations for collaboration in several ways. 

This change of scenery can awaken creativity and inspire your employees. It can also speak volumes about your company's brand and culture and help you attract and retain talent, especially if you offer healthy snacks and other amenities.

The cafeteria can also support collaboration with easy access to power, presentation devices and Wi-Fi. When technology is seamlessly integrated into the space, it facilitates high performance for every single user.  

Design Considerations

  • Make nourishment accessible throughout the day to support varied and extended work schedules 
  • Support day-to-day technology needs and leverage digital tools to support both local and virtual collaboration 
  • Promote employee health and safety by providing easy access to first aid supplies 

How do you design for collaboration in the workplace?

Fostering collaboration should be a top priority for every business. After all, problem solving is almost possible without teamwork. When employees are unable to collaborate, they struggle to generate new ideas, solve problems and grow

For many companies, part of the challenge is realizing that collaboration takes many different forms and different kinds of spaces. But, at its best, collaboration reinforces a culture where the team listens to one another and has a shared purpose. 

By designing for collaboration, employees can spend less time answering emails and solve issues in record time. They can make decisions quickly, move projects faster and work together to cultivate a culture that prioritizes innovation and growth.

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Caitlin Schauster

Written by Caitlin Schauster