The most common way to collaborate these days is through technology. Programs are available which allow employees to share documents and work on them at the same time; and online whiteboards allow people to brainstorm while they are not in the same room. Oftentimes, companies think they are doing a good job at collaborating because they use these technologies, but collaboration starts in the office.
Collaboration is “a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.” It is the way of the future, and companies are incorporating it into their culture.
Companies such as Pixar and Google are masters of the collaborative workspace. Early on they figured out that if the computer programmers got stuck, they could get inspiration from the animators; working together helped them fix problems, not sitting by themselves in their cubicles as people had done for many years. The benefits of a collaborative workspace include higher productivity, faster project progress and better problem solving.
The key components of a collaborative office space are:
- An open office plan which encourages accidental interactions
- Lots of common areas, such as cafeterias and reading nooks, which encourage people to leave their offices
- Focus on having offices that hold at least two people
- Thinking areas, which have no other purpose than being an open space where people can think in the presence of others
However, while collaboration is good, research has shown that employees do need solitude to recharge and realign their thoughts. For many years now companies have tried to find the perfect balance between private and public office space as employees start complaining more and more about privacy.