Many organizations understand that collaboration offers a wealth of benefits for business, people, and culture. But no matter how much a business wants its employees to collaborate, collaboration can’t flourish without the right setup for success. To create a collaborative environment at work, you’ll need three core ingredients: technology, policies, and practices. Workplaces need the right digital and physical tools in place so teams can work together in and out of the office. They also need policies and incentives set up at a team level that motivate people to be collaborative. Lastly, they need a culture that supports and rewards collaboration. Let’s walk through ten practical tools and strategies you can add to your workplace to promote onsite collaboration.
1. Employee scheduling app
According to our recent workplace trends report, 28% of employees say coming onsite to an empty office is a deal breaker for returning to the office. It can be frustrating to come onsite to collaborate with people, and no one is actually there. That’s where employee scheduling can come in handy. This tool will allow employees to mark what days they’re coming in and also see what days their teammates are coming in. They can also invite their teammates to come onsite for the same days, or book a day when their favorite coworkers are coming onsite. That way they can plan ahead and choose days to come onsite when they know there will be a full-house.
2. Desk booking
One of the most underrated forms of collaboration is simply asking a question to a teammate sitting next to you. But to do that, coworkers need to actually be sitting next to you, right? Provide your people a desk booking solution that will allow them to book a desk next to the people they need to sit with. They can also choose to sit near coworkers they don’t get to meet with often to help spark new conversations, idea-sharing, and innovation.
3. Room booking
The best breeding ground for collaboration is in a meeting room. Gathering stakeholders together to go over status updates, talk through blockers, and ideate for the future can be an efficient and effective way to move projects forward. To facilitate in-person collaboration, it’s important to provide employees with a meeting room booking system. Your employees will be able to quickly find available rooms that offer enough seating for their participants. It should also facilitate collaboration with the right equipment. This could be whiteboards for brainstorming, screens for virtual conferencing, or even just pens and paper for old-fashioned note-taking.
Whiteboards are a staple of brainstorming sessions. They are great at getting people’s thoughts out so everyone in the room can see them and build upon them. In today’s remote, hybrid, or distributed world of work, the standard wall-mounted whiteboard has evolved into digital ones that can support both onsite and virtual collaboration. Tools like LucidChart, WebWhiteboard, or Zoom have built-in whiteboard collaboration features. They allow people to contribute and showcase ideas no matter where they are. A tool like FigJam can even be useful for a fully in-person meeting. It allows people to add ideas in real-time on their own computers instead of shouting out ideas. Plus, it stores that information for future use.
5. Brainstorming sessions
You may have all the tools in the world to facilitate brainstorming sessions, but those don’t mean much if you’re not actually holding brainstorming sessions. It’s important that your organization has policies and practices in place that bake collaboration into the overall work process. From a policy level, encourage your managers and team leaders to conduct regular brainstorming sessions before major projects. When employees feel like they can share ideas freely with teammates, business drives forward and the employee experience improves.
6. In-person team meetings
Another opportunity to bring people together to collaborate is during weekly team meetings. Conduct those meetings onsite and build a policy around folks being in the office to attend those. Team meetings are a great opportunity for employees to share updates on projects, solicit ideas from each other, ask questions, and socialize with one another. Conducting these meetings onsite helps people form stronger connections to their team which will make them feel a greater sense of belonging.
7. Cross-functional collaboration sessions
In addition to collaboration within a team, it’s also important to build ways for your employees to meet with people outside their core team. This can help with knowledge sharing and strengthen working relationships. Host regular events like hackathons, conferences, boot camps, or team-mixers to get people from different departments in a room together to collaborate.
8. Reward collaboration
Employees want to feel recognized and valued at work. And usually they’ll keep doing more of what they see is being rewarded by leaders. If the company only notices individual achievements, then employees aren’t necessarily going to see the benefit of collaboration. That’s why it’s essential to reward group achievement and not just individual achievements. Give shout outs, bonuses, and awards to those who can work well with others. In fact, research suggests that a lack of incentives and rewards is the most common explanation for the lack of workplace collaboration.
9. Build a culture of learning
The goal of collaborating isn’t always to create new ideas. It can also be learning and teaching each other. This helps all teammates better their own skills and uplift one another. To build a culture of learning, host monthly Lunch n’ Learns where people can share knowledge on a skill they have. Or encourage each department to hold a functional training. Lastly, include an education stipend that encourages employees to go out and find a course or conference of their interest. Ask them to bring those notes back to their team to share their learnings.
10. Plan social activities onsite
Onsite social activities can be a fun way to enable collaboration. Although folks will be chatting and talking in a more casual way, they’re still building those foundational connections that will be useful when it comes time to talk about a project. So host happy hours, team building events, lunches, and more to help folks get to know each other better.--In order for businesses to turn their dream for a collaborative workplace into reality, they should keep in mind the three core sources of collaboration: tools, policies, and culture. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the list above, that’s okay! Start small. A great first step is auditing your workplace to see where you stand. Consider what tools you can upgrade or send out a survey to get feedback on how your employees feel about collaboration. These initial steps will help in the long-run towards fostering a collaborative workplace.