Any business leader knows that one of the keys to a successful company lies in building highly collaborative teams. There is increasing evidence that it is peoples’ ability to collaborate, rather than their individual skills and attributes, that determine much of their performance at work.
But collaboration is not just a matter of getting the right people into a room: all sorts of environmental factors can make a difference to the level of collaboration that goes on in your business, from the lighting and furniture to the infrastructure and technology. (You also need to offer some space for lone work and thinking to avoid collaboration overload – but in this post we’re focusing on collaboration.)
Not every business is in a position to do a complete office refurbishment, but there are still some steps almost every business can take to increase collaboration – we’ve outlined a few below, as well as suggested some things to think about next time you move or refurbish your premises.
Quick and easy collaboration wins:
- A robust wireless system – providing high-speed wireless so your people can meet and work anywhere in your premises is one of the most fundamental steps you can take to promote collaboration. Wi-fi has come a long way since the basic router, with systems such as Cisco Meraki offering high-speed, reliable and secure wi-fi for all sizes of business.
- Guest access and bring your own device (BYOD) – wi-fi systems also allow you to offer guest access to visitors without compromising your network’s security, which means partners, customers and suppliers can work with your people instantly and effectively.
- Flexible options – If your furniture is moveable, creating informal mingle and huddle spaces as well as formal meeting rooms gives people flexibility and promotes more random encounters and conversations. It can also relieve the pressure on hot desks if you have them.
- Screens and monitors – providing screens and monitors not just on desks and in meeting rooms, but also in informal collaboration areas, can be helpful for people to work together. You can make wireless connection easy with click to present USB sticks, avoiding the HDMI/VGA/Apple Display Port cable nightmare.
- Collaboration tools and software – there are now so many options for collaboration tools that it’s not possible to recommend a one-size-fits-all solution. From messaging tools like Slack to desktop video conferencing from Skype for Business, there’s a tool out there that will work for your business. Our top tip is to ask your people what they would like to use, as their willingness to adopt a tool is crucial in making it a success.
- Video conferencing – Collaboration is not just about face to face meetings: huge increases in connection speeds combined with more sophisticated software means that it’s now almost as easy to video conference as it is to call, helping even virtual teams collaborate more effectively. Our videoconferencing partners, for example, offer scaleable solutions that can be used across all devices for small scale connections, or as a highly sophisticated meeting tool for larger groups.
- Cloud-based file storage – one of the headaches of collaboration has always been version control. Moving to cloud-based file storage such as Google Apps or Microsoft Sharepoint means your people can work on documents simultaneously without conflicts.
For the long-term (or the big budget)
- Cloud telephony – a cloud telephone system means one number can reach your people in whatever location and on whichever device suits them at that particular moment.
- Video conferencing and telepresence – when designing new meeting spaces, think ahead and build in the next generation of telepresence that combines cloud sharing, collaboration tools and video conferencing for a much richer experience.
- Think flexibility in cabling and planning – if you are cabling an office or planning a layout, ensure that you have as many power and network access points as possible throughout your space, so you can be flexible in where your people work.
- Microsoft Surface Hub – only available through limited channels at the moment, the Microsoft Surface Hub allows people to interact with its touch screen across different locations, enabling them to draw, point, edit and annotate throughout their virtual meeting.
If you’d like to talk to someone about how you can make your office more collaborative through technology, drop us a line at email@example.com or 0117 974 5179 / 020 7043 7044.