When your inbox is overflowing and a deadline is looming, your working world can shrink to just you and your computer screen. In today’s fast-paced offices, teamwork often slips off the ‘To Do’ list and, with it, the chance to relieve that pressure by sharing solutions with our colleagues.
In one survey, 86% of respondents blamed a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, with nearly 40% believing that they and their colleagues didn’t collaborate enough. We all know the personal and commercial benefits of working together, but how can we make it possible?
Here are seven ideas to help deliver the benefits of cooperation.
1. Create an inspiring working environment
Whatever your preferred working style, sometimes you need to focus on a single task and sometimes you need to work with others. A workplace with both private and public spaces is more likely to encourage innovation and allow everyone to deliver their best results. Desks for independent working, meeting rooms for project groups and a hang-out space for social interactions, give everyone the chance to choose the location that makes them feel the most relaxed and engaged.
2. Develop a positive culture
It’s not just about where you work but also how you work. Successful collaboration requires us to feel comfortable enough to share our ideas with our colleagues (even if we know, they don’t agree with us). Companies with a culture of transparency, trust and respect are not only more likely to motivate staff but also to boost production, quality and levels of service. Few companies can afford to ignore the sorts of benefits that impact directly on profit!
Managers should lead the way in identifying areas for improvement and finding solutions to issues. Some psychologists say that face-to-face interaction yields considerably more positive results than digital communications alone. Open-door policies, for example, make senior staff open to discussions with colleagues at all levels.
3. Be prepared to share ideas
In our personal lives, we’re used to constantly connecting with others online. But we often forget that it’s the principles behind the technology, rather than the technology itself that helps us to build those networks.
Yes, email is a basic requirement of efficient co-working, but so are paper and writing tools. What better way to reflect key ideas than writing them on a whiteboard or flipchart for everyone to see?
If you don’t have a whiteboard handy, a Legamaster Magic-Chart provides an instant writing surface. The electrostatic foil material sticks easily to any surface (including wood, concrete, glass and even wallpaper) and because it doesn’t use adhesive, can be removed without a trace. You can use any type of marker and also add and remove presentation cards and notices - enabling all team members to contribute with ease.
Keep an edding 360 whiteboard marker in your pocket to record those spontaneous ideas wherever you happen to be. Of course it’s perfect for whiteboards and all non-porous surfaces including glass, enamel and melamine. Even better, it wipes off when you’ve had a chance to record your thoughts more formally – or change your mind!
4. Make it easy to talk to each other
There’s nothing more frustrating than members of a project team having different priorities. We’ve all had that sinking feeling when we’ve realised that our colleagues have been working towards other objectives and we’ve wasted time by duplicating work or following outdated instructions. Project management software is, of course, essential, but specific problems are best sorted by getting up and speaking to colleagues face to face.
5. Make the most of team members’ strengths
Belbin’s team roles show that, far from being a problem, differences between team members should be recognised and embraced. We work much better when we are allowed to be ourselves. The key is enabling team members to work together to maximise each other's strengths – give Belbin’s ‘Implementer’ the retractable whiteboard marker to allow them to record discussions, and let the ‘Monitor evaluator’ sit back and reflect before coming to a conclusion. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking the person with the neatest handwriting or clearest drawing to take charge of recording a discussion.
Innovation really comes to life when individuals start to recognise how their team’s varied skills and experiences can combine to find the ideal solution.
6. Make collaboration rewarding
As we’ve seen, collaboration brings its own rewards, both to individuals and the wider business. However, tangible outcomes help embed teamwork into company life. If we’re given collaboration and team goals in our individual reviews, we have something to aim for and measure - making it clear when we’ve met our targets.
Contributions can be recognised in private or public, depending on each person’s preference. You can send an email, post thanks in a comment thread on a company’s social media page, note it in a newsletter or recognise the success at a company-wide gathering. Teams could even be invited on a fun night out, which not only recognises their achievements but also provides another opportunity to strengthen their bonds.
7. Adapt and evolve
Companies are often good at tracking market trends and innovative technologies. But it’s just as important to stay on top of tools and strategies for team communication. From products and gadgets, to the latest thinking it’s an ongoing process that requires everyone to collaborate, to keep up.
It’s also vital to recognise the knock-on effects of change within an organisation. New processes, restructuring and product development could all influence how staff communicate - making it more important than ever, to make collaboration a priority.