As the workplace evolves, one thing remains the same: people are better when they work together. Unfortunately, when the pandemic forced most non-essential employees to work from home full-time, there was a loss not only in social interactions and routines but also in time spent collaborating. In fact, prior to the pandemic, employees spent 43% of their work week collaborating. During 2020, that number fell to 27%.
Despite digital communication tools keeping teams connected and businesses afloat, collaboration wasn’t happening at the same levels. Flash forward to today, and businesses are implementing a variety of work-models to balance business priorities and collaboration with flexibility and choice. Some are fully in the office, some fully remote, and some hybrid. Has collaboration caught up to where it used to be? And why is it so important for it to get back to where it was?
Collaboration can help businesses weather through tough economic crises by bringing people together to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. Not only does collaboration lead to better retention, higher revenue, and more successful business outcomes, but it also makes happier employees and a more positive work environment.
That’s why workplace leaders are pushing for employees to return to the workplace to rekindle onsite collaboration and rebuild community. In this ebook, we’ll dive into why onsite collaboration is the secret sauce to business success.
Keep on reading to learn:
1. 5 ways collaboration benefits organizations
Studies show that people who work in an office spend 52% more time collaborating than they would if they worked in full-time remote positions. Remote employees spend the majority of their time working in a silo. Whereas hybrid and full-time onsite employees split up their week with heads-down work, in-person collaboration, virtual collaboration, and socializing.
This balanced way of working with other people is beneficial for businesses. Collaboration not only drives productivity and increases revenue, but it improves the overall employee experience and creates a more satisfied workforce. Let’s go over 5 ways that workplace collaboration benefits organizations.
5 business benefits of workplace collaboration
1. Increases revenue
According to data from Frost & Sullivan, teamwork and collaboration can increase company sales by 27% and improve customer satisfaction ratings by 41%. It also improves product quality by 34% and product development by 30%. When people are in the same room, they’re able to quickly respond to questions, bounce ideas off each other, hear new perspectives, get immediate feedback, and think on their feet. They’re also better able to challenge each other in order to come up with the best solution for a problem.
Collaboration increases sales by 27% and improves customer satisfaction by 41%.
2. Helps businesses withstand recessions
During times of economic uncertainty, many businesses turn to cutting costs. But it turns out that might not be the only way to survive a tough economic obstacle. The answer is actually in breaking down barriers and growing more collaborative, cross-functional teams. Why? Because teams that work together share knowledge better. That spreading of knowledge leads to faster problem solving, better alignment of goals, and ultimately, more creative and impactful solutions that can help businesses weather the storm of an economic recession. According to research by Harvard Business Review, collaboration leads to higher commercial performance. Companies with the most highly collaborative workers experienced significant growth during the 2007-08 crisis, and continued that trajectory even after.
3. Generates innovative ideas
Some of the greatest inventions in history such as airplanes, ice cream, and search algorithms weren’t thought of by one person alone in a room. They were the result of collaborators who knew they could create something remarkable by working with others. Companies that prioritize onsite collaboration are 30% more innovative and at least 36% more productive than those that don’t. Collaborating onsite can inspire people to build on each other’s ideas to strengthen and improve them. Plus, collaboration can occur spontaneously at any point and in any place in the office. Sometimes the best ideas come after the meeting when employees are chatting over lunch or walking to their next meeting. Random, in-person interactions are important for creativity and innovation.
4. Strengthens company culture
Collaboration is an important driver to feelings of connection and belonging at an organization. It can also be a defining cultural value. When employees feel that they can speak up, freely share ideas, and contribute to initiatives, they are more likely to feel like they are valued in an organization.
5. Boosts retention
Employees like working at companies that encourage cross-functional collaboration, mentorship opportunities, and connection-building. According to a study, companies that promote collaboration and communication at work are linked to reducing employee turnover rates by 50%. Holding on to great talent and creating an enjoyable workplace experience is key for businesses right now who are looking to build back stronger.
Collaboration reduces employee turnover rates by 50%.
How are companies adapting their offices to foster collaboration?
Leaders can’t wave a magic wand and expect their employees to start collaborating. Like plants need the ideal conditions to grow and thrive, so does collaboration. The right spaces, day of the week, and amenities all play a role in fostering strong collaboration.
Many companies returned back to their workplaces after the pandemic. They realized that their layout and processes weren’t fit for a collaborative culture. So they made changes to improve the interactions in the office. Here are a few ways leading companies have adapted their workplaces to foster collaboration.
Dropbox found a way to combine the best of working from home with the best of being in the office. They created DropBox Studios, which are office-like spaces designed to help employees collaborate. The studios have a coffee shop for social interactions, conference rooms for collaboration, and classrooms for group learning. These more casual-style workspaces help employees work together in a less formal setting. Employees can share spaces and ideas, and are able to enjoy in-person interactions they couldn’t get at home.
For Lionsgate, collaboration was key in getting employees back into the office. But they realized their offices weren’t set up to accommodate employee scheduling, health verification, and desk booking. So they added new workplace technology that empowered employees to safely and easily book a space. This gave them better access to their teammates. In-person collaboration can’t occur if the people you need to meet with aren’t actually onsite.
We have some employees who depend on the office to collaborate with colleagues, to brainstorm, and work together. So we’ll have the flexibility with Envoy Desks to make it work for us, depending on what each employee and team needs.
Chief Administrative Officer at Lionsgate
L’Oréal decided that their set-up of traditional desks and meeting rooms wasn’t the only way to get people in a room together. So they upgraded their office with fitness centers, an outdoor garden patio with Wi-Fi, comfy couches, high-top tables, and more. They even renamed their meeting rooms to “collaboration rooms.” L’Oréal understood it was important to create spaces in the office that were comfortable and fun to be in.
DoorDash wasn’t immune to the problem of having a huge office space and no one going in. So they decided to make a few upgrades to their space and implement new technology to help employees feel more comfortable. They believe that relationships are deepened when they are built in person. DoorDash encouraged their employees to come together for collaborative events such as product launches, hackathons, team meetings, planning sessions, all-hands gathering, and more. They added more lounge areas, removed stand-alone desks, and created more spaces for people to meet and work together.
The above examples show how top companies are adapting their workspaces, policies, technology, and more in order to foster onsite collaboration. Businesses understand the value of collaboration in fueling success and are being creative in how they cultivate that.
Now that we’ve gone over a few of the major benefits of collaboration for business, let’s flip the script. How does collaboration impact employees and their experience? In the next section, we’ll go over the benefits of workplace collaboration for your most valuable resource: your employees.
2. How collaboration improves the employee experience
Before diving into how collaboration can impact the employee experience, let’s first define what employee experience means. Employee experience is more than just how a particular person feels that day in the office. It’s a culmination of workplace technology, company culture, and interactions with other people throughout the entire journey of being an employee.
Workplace leaders can measure employee experience with things like employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and retention, and more. And for businesses to succeed, they need to prioritize creating a great employee experience.
How does collaboration play into a great employee experience? Employees who collaborate at their workplace are 17% more satisfied in their job and workplace culture than those who don’t. In this following section, we’ll go over 5 ways workplace collaboration can improve the employee experience.
5 benefits of workplace collaboration for employees
1. Helps employees solve problems faster and smarter
Relay races include one person finishing their piece of the race before handing it over to the next person. Most group sports or activities are designed to distribute the work or task among a few members. Why? We’re all better when we work together. The same is true about projects at work. Each function plays their part in ensuring the success of an overall project. Collaborating together allows employees to share their unique skills and knowledge to come up with solutions faster and smarter.
In fact, individuals who work in a collaborative setting at work are 50% more effective at completing tasks than those who work independently. And it makes a difference if you’re onsite versus at home. In an office, you’re able to walk up to a coworker and ask a question. They can respond right then and there (maybe even source responses from a few teammates sitting near each other) and speed up the process of completing the task. When you work remotely, you might have to wait an hour or two to get a response to a Slack message.
2. Improves communication
It might be obvious that collaborating requires good communication skills. If you need to request something from another teammate, it’s important to be clear on what the request is and when you need it. Without those elements, both teammates can feel lost and frustrated. Collaboration inherently makes people better communicators. And communication is key in a good employee experience. It’s no surprise then that 39% of respondents in a survey cited poor communication to be a top stressor at work. That means good communication can go a long way in forming strong relationships at work and feeling less stressed. Plus, communicating onsite and face-to-face is a very different skill set than communicating online. It’s an important professional skill to be able to speak clearly in a meeting or communicate an idea to someone in a 1:1.
3. Prevents burnout
Burnout can happen to employees when they feel overworked, isolated from teammates, or frustrated by a lack of support. Collaboration can be the silent hero to helping prevent burnout. Why? Collaboration helps employees distribute tasks more equitably. That helps lessen the workload on each person and can prevent those feelings of burnout.
Plus, collaboration can help reduce the fatigue and loneliness employees may feel when they’re working on projects siloed. Meaningful communication and collaboration at work can improve team dynamics by reassuring employees that they have other people to lean on. It can also strengthen workplace relationships and even friendships.
4. Improves knowledge sharing
Most employees specialize in their roles, which means they alone don’t have all the answers to solve a problem. Knowledge sharing is an essential part of the employee experience because it helps people learn new things and develop additional skills in their career. Plus, it allows employees to flex their own skills and provide value to their team. In an office setting employees can share their knowledge in a lot of ways. They can help a teammate out with a question, lead a functional training, or even offer a new perspective in casual lunchtime work conversation.
5. Fuels career growth
The ability to collaborate is an important skill for career growth. Studies show that top-performing workers spend 45% of their time working individually, 45% of their job working collaboratively, and 10% of their time learning and socializing. This data suggests that the highest performing employees spend an equal amount of time engaging in both individual and collaborative work.
For employees, career growth is an important aspect of the employee experience in the workspace. Feeling stagnant or stuck isn’t a great feeling for anyone. By collaborating more at work, employees will be exposed to new teams, new projects, and new ways to grow in their career
Collaboration is essential to driving a positive employee experience. Collaborating helps employees feel like they belong to something meaningful and have a team of supporters to lean on. Now that you know all of the benefits of collaboration for both businesses and their employees, let’s dive into how to foster more collaboration in your workplace.
3. 10 tools and tips that promote onsite collaboration
It’s clear that collaboration offers a wealth of benefits for your business, people, and culture. But how do you implement a collaborative culture in your business? Let’s explore the three core ingredients needed to create a collaborative environment at work: technology, policies, and practices.
You’ll need the right digital and physical tools set up for your teams that enable them to communicate and brainstorm in and out of the office. You’ll also need policies and incentives set up at a team level that actually motivate people to be collaborative. And lastly, you’ll need to create a culture of collaboration. Let’s walk through some of the practical tools and strategies you can add to help foster collaboration.
Employee scheduling app
According to our recent workplace trends report, 28% of employees say coming onsite to an empty office is a deal breaker. 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. A 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 specifically when their favorites are coming onsite. That way they can plan ahead and choose days to come onsite when they know there will be a full house.
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. Or they can sit near coworkers they don’t get to meet with often to help spark new conversations, idea-sharing, and innovation.
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. In order 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.
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. 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 and are heard by teammates, business drives forward and the employee experience improves.
In-person team meetings
Another way 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.
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 in order to get people from different departments in a room together to collaborate.
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. 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.
Build a culture of learning
Collaboration isn’t always creating new ideas. It can also be learning and teaching each other. This helps all teammates better their own skills and uplift one another. In order 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.
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.