THE business case for increased collaboration in the workplace keeps getting stronger, according to Isla Galloway-Gaul, the managing director of Inspiration Office, a space and furniture consultancy.
A new study conducted by Steelcase, a global offices services design company that is represented by Inspiration Office in South Africa, found that 90% of staff said collaboration is essential to create new and better ideas. Business leaders are even more convinced, with 93% believing it is essential to generating successful ideas.
She said: “As teams increase their collaboration, teams innovate faster, achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. Profitability also increases.” Galloway-Gaul added that the working world now requires rapid responses that focus on creativity, innovation and design, rather than solely on delivery. “To achieve this, work will increasingly be project-based rather than segmented by department, and will need to take place across teams and silos.” She likened the approach to the difference between a rugby team and a swimming team.
“Swimmers stay in their own lane, but rugby players interact and transition constantly, relying on one another to win. Teams today need to do that too – navigate a fast-paced flow, bouncing between team members, iterating and improving on one another’s ideas. Everyone is responsible to keep work moving forward.” But most offices are still designed to support individual work in a linear process.
“These businesses risk losing out,” she warned. “Companies that promote collaborative work are five times more likely to be high-performing, according to the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity. “This drive for increased collaboration has led to the amount of time people spend in team-based work to explode, ballooning by 50% in the past two decades, according to The Harvard Business Review.
Today, people are spending more than half of their day collaborating with others.” How should teams adapt to the increased focus on hyper-collaboration and the need for greater interdependence? “Work is becoming much more dynamic,” said Galloway-Gaul. Teams are increasingly leading workshops, brainstorming, filling walls and whiteboards with content and coming together to share their ideas. Team members sit together so they can interact with one another in real time, build cohesion and work faster.” However, she added that they also need moments of retreat from the group to focus, absorb information and process their own ideas.
Another factor, the Agile Revolution is increasingly taking root at work. “Agile is a set of values and principles derived from software development and now used by lots of industries to improve speed, flexibility and customer focus. “Agile teams structure their work into a sequence of activities that guide them to execute quickly, monitor progress and readjust workflow. Their practice includes daily stand-up meetings, pair-based work and sprint reviews. These teams constantly shift between modes of work, working alone and together as the task demands,” said Galloway-Gaul.
Isla Galloway-Gaul is the managing director at Inspiration Office, a space and furniture consultancy.
FOR many employees, well-being in the workplace means physical health: ergonomic furniture, a fitness centre and healthy choices in the canteen.
But while these things are vitally important, they don’t make up the full story.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, a managing director of Inspiration Office, a space and furniture consultancy, said that many organisations are thinking about well-being more holistically and realising cognitive health is just as important as physical health.
She said: “All workplaces need to consider a range of health dimensions such as cognitive, emotional, social and financial too. Without these in the mix, the more traditional health considerations won’t be nearly as beneficial.”
A recent study by Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health in the US showed that the physical work environment dramatically influences emotional and physical well-being.
Galloway-Gaul said: “Workers in an old-style office space (low ceilings, rows of cubicles, limited natural light, noisy air handling and unattractive views) had significantly higher levels of stress hormones and heart rate variability than workers in more open, spacious, well-lit offices.
“Most worryingly, these rates stayed high even when workers were at home, which underlines just what profound impact the workplace has on everyone’s health.”
In other research, Steelcase, a global firm of office architects and furniture designers, identified some common principles for cognitive well-being at work. They include:
1. Support a range of places
Every worker wants some control over how they work. “Superior connections and support for technology, plus an adequate array space can transform even a small footprint into an appealing, effective space for work,” said Galloway-Gaul.
2. Support an easy switch between the modes of work
Different kinds of workplace settings make it easier for workers to tap into the vibe they seek and transition between work modes. “For example this could mean a quiet booth for solo work or a more relaxed lounge setting for a team chat,” she said.
3. Support expectations for collaboration and privacy
Although people tend to think of privacy in relation to other people bothering them, it really needs management to support a culture that doesn’t look down on people working in different ways. “The message needs to be sent to people that it is okay to work alone or in groups as you see fit,” Galloway-Gaul advised.
4. Make common spaces an instant fit
Intuitive adjustments and easy technology connections make common spaces uncommonly supportive for on-the-move individuals and teams, enabling them to be efficient right from the start.
5. Help employees identify mental health risks
“Promoting good mental health in the workplaces is one of the most important steps employers can take to improve their organisations. Helping people recognise the signs of illness such as depression can assist in earlier treatment and better recovery outcomes,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.
Isla Galloway-Gaul is a managing director of Inspiration Office, a space and furniture consultancy.
ACCORDING to a Gallup poll called the “State of the Global Workplace”, which studied employee engagement in 142 countries, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, the managing director of Inspiration Office, a space and furniture consultancy, said: “When people are engaged, they adopt the vision, values and purpose of the organisation they work for. They become passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers and are a joy to work with. “The answer to winning back disengaged employees and keeping the engaged employees engaged isn’t only pay, perks or promotions, but it is meaning – that is, giving work a greater sense of significance and making work matter.”
Here are ways to make people more engaged at work:
- Show people their work matters
“Make time for employees to explore the purpose of what they do,” Introduce your team to their customers. Explain how their work helps others, even in small ways, and encourage them to share their own stories. Reframe the work your team is doing so they can understand how and why they fit into it.
- Create a learning environment to encourage personal growth
Make space for people to create and execute their own learning plans, offering help along the way. Understand their different learning styles and attention spans, and provide experiences for growth expanding on what they already know, with immediate opportunities for putting into practice at work.
- Help make people feel valued and valuable
“You care about your personal family and friends, but what about your ‘work family,’ whom you probably see the most? Do you ever ask how your employees are doing and care about what they say?” By showing employees their value, they will feel valued as individuals and in turn are more likely to live up to their value in the workplace.
- Involve people in decisions to create a sense of control
Micromanagement can be a meaning-killer. “Including your employees in decisions and giving them space to get the job done helps them feel less like numbers and more like contributors. Whether it is where to put the new soda fridge or how to solve a million-dollar problem, don’t manage in a vacuum,” Galloway-Gaul advised.
- Allow people to bring their real self to work
By being your authentic self, you give employees permission not to check their identities at the door, even if they are a quirkier than everyone else. Of course, this must be within the bounds of workplace professionalism.
- Make people see where they fit in the mission
“Employees will never think that their work matters if they don’t know they matter. Achieve this by showing them the long-term vision and how they fit in it and contribute to it beyond the organisational chart of course,” said Galloway-Gaul.
THE concept of teamwork is not new. For most of the 20th century, teams functioned like an assembly line, focusing on areas of expertise and the division of tasks.
“But this siloed work style ended up slowing things down, causing errors and overlooked opportunities,” said Isla Galloway-Gaul, the managing director of Inspiration Office, an office space and furniture consultancy. “To combat this problem, that paradigm gave way in many organisations to open plan offices.
According to global office architects and furniture designers Steelcase, 69 percent of all offices now have an open floor plan. But work in these settings is mostly an independent pursuit, interspersed with team meetings and water cooler conversations.” She said: “Without question, the need to reboot the corporate workplace is overdue because while the processes and activities of teams today have changed dramatically, some business spaces have not kept up.”
Today, work gets done through networks and lateral relationships. Employees who once operated in different universes must come together in interdependent, fluid teams. The spaces that best support this kind of work are designed specifically for teams, while embracing the needs of all the constituent individuals. “Forget the adage that ‘there is no ‘I’ in team,” she said. “Teams are made up of individuals.
We need to design for multidisciplinary teamwork in a way that also gives the individual what they need to do their best work. “There is, therefore, a growing demand for user control over spaces – people want to be able to adapt spaces at the pace of the project and to give team members agency in defining how the ‘me’ and the ‘we’ need to work together at a given time.” But right now, although many organisations have become nimble, there are still businesses in which employees need to file requests with facilities and end up waiting for weeks for the changes they have asked for. Galloway-Gaul said: “Project work moves through different phases and each phase has its own set of activities. It is important that the space can evolve with the project.” So, what do teams need from their work environments?
Teams need a sense of shared purpose, cohesion and identity to be able to work together and build on one another’s ideas successfully. Galloway-Gaul said companies should consider three things to help their teams excel.
- Build a home for teams
The role of team space is bigger than just supporting the work itself. It is also about the human dimension. The team space should reflect and encourage the type of practices and working style of the team where they can foster a sense of identity, cohesion and trust.
- Flex space to process
Teams need a dynamic space that keeps up with their process and keeps them in flow. The space should let teams reorganise in a natural, spontaneous way in rapid cycles.
- Empower teams
Teams need control over their environments to cope with individual preferences and project needs. Empower teams and individuals to make quick adjustments to their space on demand to keep projects moving.
Isla Galloway-Gaul is the managing director of Inspiration Office, an office space and furniture consultancy.
DURING the past decade, the workspace has undergone dramatic change, but it pales in comparison to how new organisational structures will influence the work environment as we move towards 2020. Isla Galloway-Gaul, the managing director of Inspiration Office, an office space and furniture consultancy, said: “Our ways of working have changed as many societies become wealthier, as consumers demand new types of products and services, and as we constantly seek to increase productivity.” She said that there are four megatrends, which will have a profound impact on how we work:
- Rise of mobile knowledge workers
A knowledge worker uses research skills to define a problem, identify possible solutions, communicates that information and then works on one or several of those possible solutions. “The rise of knowledge workers sets new requirements for office design. Knowledge work is flexible, and knowledge workers are far more likely than other types of workers to work from home and be more mobile. “The design of the work environment must be adapted to specific work needs, as well as suit personal preferences,” said Galloway-Gaul.
- Burst of new technology
For more than 30 years, IT and mobile advancements have had a profound influence on how we work and it is possible that this exponential advance will continue. A few emerging technologies are already so advanced that it is possible to gauge their future influence. For example the internet of things, a connected network of physical devices, can connect and exchange data, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits and reduced human efforts. Real-time speech recognition and translation will support easier communications between different language speakers and big data will allow companies to recognise patterns and make better decisions.
- From Generation X to Generation Y
Galloway-Gaul said: “Looking ahead to understand how our ways of working will change, it is necessary to understand what Generation Y need from their workplace, what their characteristics are like and how differently they see the world.” For example, millennials tend to be more family-centric, which means that they are willing to trade higher pay for a better work-life balance. Also, they are the most tech-savvy generation, which makes remote work possible, even desirable. They are achievement-oriented and frequently seek new challenges.
- Globalisation and performance
Globalisation affects how we work in at least two ways. “Firstly, there is a now a larger, global talent pool available, which means that talent is more geographically dispersed and culturally diverse. “As we head towards 2020, people will increasingly work with co-workers they have never met before,” she added. Secondly, globalisation increases the pressure to perform. Previously companies could produce goods and have a secure home market with limited competition. “Now many products are sold at similar or more cost-effective prices with the same or better service and innovation is copied by competitors within weeks. This puts the question of whether work or services should be outsourced to other countries on the strategic agenda,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.
Isla Galloway-Gaul is the managing director of Inspiration Office, an office space and furniture consultancy.