What is a Collaborative Workspace, Really?
By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
Few aspects of work are individual endeavors. It takes a team to bring an idea to fruition and the efforts of many to achieve success. It’s no surprise then that modern workplace design skews toward collaboration. But what is a collaborative workspace, really? What defines it and makes it conducive to individual and team efforts?
Collaborative workspace design isn’t just about recognizing the needs of many, but fitting them together in an environment where every individual supports a larger goal.
Fostering cooperative, collaborative work
The objective of a collaborative workspace is to bring team members together in pursuit of a common goal. Even if individuals play different roles, the workspace they share should accommodate their contributions.
Cooperation is at the root of collaboration. Employees who cooperate can work together, regardless of the objective or obstacles. This concept is at the root of every corporate team-building exercise, and it needs to be central in collaborative workspace design. How can you create an environment that naturally brings people together and fosters a cooperative group dynamic? Answer this question and you’ve found the motivation behind creating a collaborative workspace.
The pillars of collaborative workspaces
A collaborative working space isn’t a group of individual workspaces clumped together. It’s a new design that’s rooted in cooperation. Pushing individual desks together only means bringing individual workspaces closer in proximity. To be truly collaborative, a workspace needs the proper foundation. Specifically, it needs:
- Physical space: The simplest way to foster collaboration is to provide ample space for employees to work. Cramming too many people in a space that’s too small is a recipe for friction. Give them enough room to spread out while still in proximity to the team.
- Technological resources: Cooperative work stalls without the right tools. Cloud software and collaborative platforms, such as Slack and Zoom, keep teams engaged and allow every member to contribute in their own capacity.
- Comfort: From lighting to acoustics, furniture to floor plan, collaborative spaces should be synonymous with comfort. Being able to work in comfort within an environment that’s constantly abuzz is crucial for productivity.
- Optionality: Many people sharing a single space demands variety. An array of furniture, seating arrangements, and resources cater to the many personalities you’re bringing together.
Bear in mind, the goal of a collaborative workspace isn’t assimilation. It’s about bringing individuals together to contribute, which means cultivating a space that fosters individuality within a group dynamic. Accommodating every individual helps foster the strongest group dynamic.
The positive effects of collaborative space
Designed right, collaborative space offers businesses a plethora of benefits. The most obvious is the ability for teams to work side-by-side in an environment designed to improve productivity, efficiency, and communication. Taking employees out of individual office spaces and putting them together naturally complements the work they’re already doing.
The proximity and positive group dynamic of a collaborative workspace goes beyond pure work benefits. For example, there’s socialization to consider. Collaborative spaces take the water cooler out of play, which encourages employees to socialize within their groups. Instead of taking time out of work to socialize, this interaction becomes part of the work itself.
Camaraderie and culture also benefit. Talking about the season finale of a hot show or the latest pop culture headlines creates common ground for coworkers, spawning everything from inside jokes to friendships outside of work. And, when the going gets tough, everyone is in the trenches together, putting in long hours and hard work side by side. Every day the group grows closer, promoting a tight-knit company culture.
The collaborative workspace is the setting for these benefits. It marks an important shift from individuals working within a group to a group working as one.
Buy-in is crucial to the success of collaborative workspaces
There’s a final caveat to the success of a collaborative workspace: employee buy-in. You can assemble the best workspace in the world—conducive to group work and free-flowing collaboration—but it’s immediately invalidated by a group that can’t or won’t work together.
Again, this is why addressing the needs of each individual is important. Employees who feel like they have nothing to gain from a collaborative work environment will be reluctant to adopt it. Sell the benefits on a personal level, then introduce the positives from the group standpoint. When employees see the benefits for themselves and understand how their presence boosts others, they’ll be more inclined to accept a collaborative work environment.
Keep reading: how to design a collaborative office space.