The ultimate guide to collaboration in the workplace

Mar 16, 2023
Transform your workplace to encourage collaboration and make folks happy working together IRL again.
Amy KirkhamEnvoy Logo
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni
Marketing Specialist

For many organizations, collaboration is treated as a means to an end. It’s seen as a way for employees to get work done, but it offers so much more value than that. Collaboration can spark innovation, foster a sense of community, and, yes, drive business output. So, if your workplace isn’t as collaborative as you’d like, don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to boost collaboration among employees. We’ll cover:

What is collaboration in the workplace?

Collaboration in the workplace is a way of working where employees team up, typically in person, to make progress against a common goal. This can include both one-off tasks or ongoing projects.Organizations can support collaboration by providing the right tools and conditions for employees in the workplace. This includes workplace management, workplace design, technologies, culture-building programs, and offering the right types of space for employees to work together.

Why does collaboration in the workplace matter?

Workplace collaboration is essential for employees and businesses alike, and the list of benefits is long. It develops team camaraderie, work relationships, and a sense of community onsite. Not only is it fun, it’s also incredibly valuable for employees to bounce ideas off each other, do brainstorming activities together, and tap into their coworkers’ creativity. Apart from improving company culture, workplace collaboration can drive business output, accelerate innovation, and unlock potential for growth. It’s no wonder why tech giants like Apple built their return-to-office policies based on the importance of in-person collaboration.

5 ways to spark collaboration in the workplace

As a workplace leader, you have a huge role to play in encouraging collaboration in the workplace. Luckily, when you know where to focus your efforts, you can create the right environment for this to happen naturally. In this section, we’ll cover five ways your team can make collaborating onsite easy and enjoyable for employees.

1. Design your workplace with positivity in mind

The design of your office can play a big role in fostering creativity and collaboration. It can contribute to folks’ workplace experience and can be the difference between employees feeling engaged and excited onsite versus wanting to avoid it altogether. And while workplace design isn’t a new trend, having a more focused view on the purpose of spaces in your workplace is.When designing your workspace, think about what would make a positive impact on how your employees feel onsite. Think about the type of furniture that will encourage collaboration among coworkers. Do they need big tables to sit around? Desks? Couches?Separating areas in your workplace for different purposes can also really help people get in the right mindset. For example, implementing a quiet zone will help folks get heads-down work complete, free from any distraction. On the other side of the workplace, make room for social spaces and collaboration stations. This allows noise and energy to flow, helping people to enjoy the workplace and spark renewed collaboration onsite.

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2. Use the right tools

To make collaboration a priority in your workplace, you need the right tools and technology. Technology can help facilitate renewed collaboration and ways of working together onsite. When your team can’t make it all onsite together, office technology like Zoom can connect those in the office with remote coworkers easily. Here’s some useful tools to spark renewed collaboration in the workplace:

  • Whiteboards. A staple of brainstorming sessions everywhere. Whiteboards are great at getting people’s thoughts out so that everyone can see them and build on them. Include them in meeting rooms and around the office to spark spontaneous collaboration.
  • Room booking technology. Using room scheduling software will help folks book the right room for the occasion, without hassle. People can look at how many people each room can sit, as well as the available amenities they might need, too.
  • Communication tools. The likes of Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams have transformed collaboration. Communication tools can help folks connect with each other virtually. This helps foster collaboration in the workplace by making it easy to include folks who are working remote or on different hybrid work schedules.
  • Hot-desking. When people don’t have permanent desk assignments, they’re likely to move around the office a little more. Hot-desking is a great way to spark collaboration by encouraging folks to sit next to different coworkers. This can spark new conversations and sharing of ideas.  

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We wrote an in depth guide on collaboration tools for the workplace, so check it out if you want to dive deeper. On top of providing a list of tools that support onsite collaboration, it also outlines the steps to take to choose the right technologies for your organization.

3. Foster a community culture

When people are part of a community, they feel like they belong. They feel valued. They feel motivated. This applies to your workplace community as well. Your employees want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger, and that there’s a support network around them. This will encourage them to put their voice out there and collaborate with their coworkers. Fostering a strong workplace community culture takes time, patience, and of course, people. The more time your people choose to spend in the office, the better effect it has on company culture and community. Not to mention, the stronger your community culture, the more likely folks are to actually choose to come into the workplace. When employees know they have work pals they can join onsite, they’re more likely to choose the workplace over remote options. This is a win for company culture and your return-to-office efforts. So what can you do to build a community culture at work?

  • Organize social activities unrelated to work. That might look like happy hours, game nights, or birthday celebrations. This will help folks build the camaraderie necessary for a culture of collaboration.  
  • Celebrate teamwork. When employees see that executives value collaboration, they’ll have added reason to be a team player. You can also reward teamwork on a regular basis, say once a quarter, by acknowledging collaborative efforts in company-wide meetings.
  • Get on the same page with other leaders. Partner with your HR team and functional leaders to decide how to encourage collaboration across teams. Remember, you play a pivotal role in making collaboration flow in the workplace—but you don’t have to do it alone. Work with others to make your efforts more impactful across your organization.
  • Make the pitch to add “collaboration” to your organization’s core values. This way, it’s clear to current and future employees that collaboration is something your business fundamentally believes in and actively tries to foster.

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4. Get creative with your meeting spaces

Meeting rooms are where the majority of collaboration happens in the workplace. So it’s important that they’re set up for different types of discussions and ways of working. Ensure your meeting spaces are unique and different from each other. This will help people experience a different vibe from each room, encouraging more creativity, engagement, and productivity. Here are two types of workspace that show how different meeting spaces can help onsite collaboration.

  1. Focused collaborative work areas. These are mostly closed-off conference rooms and meeting spaces. It includes any area where teams can have focused sessions, take Zoom calls with remote colleagues, or have a safe space to discuss confidential subjects.  
  2. Open collaborative work areas. Open collaborative areas are modular in nature. Imagine an area with chairs, couches, and bean bags that you can move around. Add in a few whiteboards or monitors on wheels. It’s a space where spontaneous creativity is encouraged. Groups of two or more can gather here for brainstorming sessions, problem-solving, and other modes of in-person collaboration.

Diversifying your meeting rooms can only be a positive for your workplace. Your employees will love having the options to choose the space that works best for them.

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Want to learn more about meeting spaces? Check out our blog post on workspaces that support employee productivity and happiness. In it, you’ll find five types of space you can add to your workplace and the key benefits of each.

5. Encourage socializing inside (and outside) the workplace

The number one benefit of working onsite, according to employees, is socializing with work friends. People get excited to go to the workplace when they think of the fun, impromptu social interactions that they could have with colleagues. This helps attract new talent to organizations and helps prevent costly employee turnover. It also encourages existing employees to ditch their work-from-home stations in favor of the workplace. As a workplace manager, you can organize fun events and activities to help coworkers socialize with each other in the workplace. This might be a quiz night, themed drinks, or a movie screening. Whatever gets your people together in the workplace will be beneficial for building strong relationships.

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How collaborative is your workplace?

Before we wrap, it’s important to know how collaborative your workplace is. This will help you see where you can and should improve. We put together a short quiz to help you easily discover where your workplace is today. At the end, we’ll give you tips and tricks for making it more collaborative. Take the quiz here. –Collaboration is a key part of a successful workplace. It encourages your employees to work together and drives quality results over the line. And when your employees enjoy collaborating with coworkers, it can only have a more positive impact on your organization as a whole.

Pro tip: Gather insights from your workplace platform to see what types of space your employees book most. Knowing the most popular space types will help you decide which ones to double down on in the workplace.

Pro tip: Use a desk booking solution that allows employees to view a map of where folks are seated in the workplace. This will help them book a desk near their teammates or work pals for easier collaboration and idea sharing.

Pro tip: Choose a workplace platform that supports community building. Look for features like the ability to create workplace groups. This will allow folks to filter and see when others in their group have scheduled to work onsite. It also enables employees to invite their group to join them in the workplace, making collaborating in person that much easier.

Pro tip: Dive into your workplace platform data to see which meeting spaces are most popular and which go underutilized. This will help you decide how to optimize your space to best meet the needs of your employees.

Pro tip: Organize activities outside of the workplace, too. For example, you can host a happy hour at a local restaurant or picnic at a nearby park. Activities that happen outside of the workplace can do wonders for teamwork—not to mention the collaboration that happens within it.

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AUTHOR BIO
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

Amy is a content creator and storyteller at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people will love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy exploring new places, planning her next trip, or enjoying a coffee and croissant in her favorite cafe.

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