Job advertisements always seem to be seeking applicants who are ‘team players’. Blogs promote teamwork as the latest office productivity ‘hack’, and businesses are replacing individual tasks with team projects. What’s the big deal with teamwork? Can teamwork really make such a difference to the work environment?
The trick to making teamwork effective in the office is to use it where it matters. Office collaboration is as spontaneous as it is planned. Through informal teamwork in the form of chatting, brainstorming and general office socialising, ideas are shared and partnerships are formed. If you want teamwork to happen in your workplace, make sure that the workplace offers the space for teams to form and perform. Here are some top guidelines for facilitating effective teamwork in the office space.
Office layouts that inspire teamwork
- Open-plan spaces: Gone are the days of cubicles and closed doors to offices; modern workplaces are more open and inviting of interaction. The open-plan space of an office directly encourages a more open flow of communication and accessibility between co-workers. Privacy can still be maintained as everyone has their own desk or workstation, but they are free to move about or invite teammates into their space too.
- Visibility: A part of the open space trend in offices includes open lines of sight to foster collaboration. If a worker can see whether a colleague is busy or not, a mutual respect and mentality of teamwork starts developing. This visibility could come in the form of open spaces between workstations or replacing doors or even walls with glass, for example.
- Think in circles: Circular layouts help boost collaboration as well as respect and solidarity. At a circular table, for example, there is no head of the table, making everyone’s placement of equal significance and importance. Teams operate the best when each member feels that they are important contributors. When picking furniture, choose items that evenly group or place office workers, and lay seating out in circular, horseshoe or similar shapes.
- Designated spaces: An office should provide multiple spaces for collaboration, as well as for individual work, relaxation, and designated tasks pertinent to the functioning of the office. An office centred on teamwork will offer areas for chatting and socialising, focused and formal collaborations, and meeting rooms or boardrooms.
- Equal access: Additionally, nothing negates the positivity of teamwork like inequality. Make sure the office and especially the teamwork areas offer equal access to all office workers (and guests, if applicable), so that no employee is left out.
Office furniture that inspires teamwork
- Easy to move: The type of furniture chosen for an office can also affect the teamwork and collaboration taking place. One important feature of an open-plan office with multiple designated task areas is freedom of movement; employees are going to be moving frequently from one workstation to the next. It is essential that the office furniture they need can move with them, or be moved out of their way. Office furniture that is easily portable or can be stacked, packed or folded away easily helps save space and affords more convenience.
- Multipurpose flexibility: If moving or packing the office furniture around is not a feasible option, an office can benefit from multifunctional items of furniture instead. Furniture that has the flexibility to cater for different needs and tasks, and can convert from one to the other easily, is a boon to any office. Sit-stand desks, for example, are becoming increasingly popular.
- Convenience and comfort: Modern office desks or tables can also support collaboration by offering built-in power supplies, as teams can easily set up their laptops and other tools together. Comfort is also an important aspect for productivity and motivation in the office.
- Technology: Collaborative technology and office tools can be used to great effect to promote teamwork. From shared networks to interactive smartboards, teams can function more efficiently with the help of technology.
Office culture should reflect the virtues of teamwork
Apart from implementing specific designs and furniture choices, office managers can encourage teamwork and collaboration though their attitude and approach to teamwork tasks. Setting an atmosphere of group thinking and collaboration will help employees acclimatise to teamwork environments more easily and encourage teamwork and partnerships. Strengthen team effort and participation with rewards and recognition. When you think of your office environment of a network of professionals, and each employee with their own set of valuable skills to offer, you plant the seeds for effective and productive teamwork.