Effective project management is crucial for a business of any size, yet project collaboration can prove equally valuable, but may often be overlooked. Beth Hampson, Commercial Director, The Argyll Club explains
Rather than a hierarchical approach to the planning and execution of a project, collaboration brings multiple levels of a business together – it is particularly well-suited to SMEs with smaller pools of resource, flatter structures and a greater need for maximising skills.
However, collaboration is not as easy as gathering employees and setting them a task. It’s about facilitating a mindset, offering the necessary practical spaces and tools. In a traditional office, a rigid ‘at-desk’ mentality can sometimes frustrate attempts to work together. The answer to this problem? Flexible working. How can the four walls around you actually promote better collaboration amongst your workforce?
Unlike an old-fashioned office, where the water cooler is the only communal area, modern flexible workspaces boast cafes, breakout areas and lounges. These offer employees a fresh space to work together. It has been proven that employee engagement can be boosted by moving to new surroundings, even if only briefly, and the change in scenery will help focus your team’s mind on the new task and result in more creative processes.
Relaxed seating and easily-available refreshments will further mark a change from desk-work, while using whiteboards, flip charts or similar aids will prompt everyone to work as a team. Moving the team responsible for one project to a communal area will allow them to have as much discussion as necessary and help those in the office concentrate on individual tasks.
Don’t forget the fundamentals
Office design is also a key factor for creating an inspiring place to work that fosters collaboration. Multiple studies have shown the combination of natural light, sufficient airflow and low noise level will boost employee wellness. In short, the better your employees feel, the more able they are to brainstorm, innovate and create. Find an office with large windows that can open to maximise both light and fresh air. Adequate space to move around the office also allows team members to visit each other’s desks to discuss projects, making for organic collaboration outside of scheduled meetings.
Flex the desks
Beyond this, organic collaboration is key to creating an environment where great results come from team work. No system can survive when employees are reluctantly pushed into it, so it is important to ensure that there is freedom to work outside of scheduled meetings. Working in an office that has the ability to be reshuffled and easily moulded to your team’s current workload, and then put back again if needed, streamlines the collaboration process and means it is easily applied to every project. What’s more, it also helps to create a healthy team spirit – the practical building blocks may be in place with a collaborative office design, but employers must use their space to create a collegiate feel within the office, or employees simply won’t feel comfortable speaking up.
The ability to add or remove desks also supports scalability; this should be a key consideration for SMEs who may be expanding and contracting as they grow. A traditional lease can lock a business into its office for decades, whereas a 12 – 36-month lease with a flexible operator allows businesses to move office, scaling up or scaling down, and add further desks at short notice.
Cleverly use meetings
Whilst reshuffling desks and moving to breakout spaces are incredibly valuable, formal meeting spaces cannot be forgotten. Flexible office providers with bookable meeting rooms and business lounges offer SMEs access to productive facilities, without having to pay the overheads of a permanent traditional lease.
These spaces can be used for internal meetings, but also for meeting partner businesses to collaborate on joint projects. Leverage your professional space to add value to your business and impress with stylish meeting spaces at a premium address.
Similarly, business lounges provide an ideal place to network with other businesses. Why waste time at rushed networking events when stopping by a membership club to get a coffee will let you meet just as many business owners and employees that might prove a good contact? Collaboration has to start somewhere, after all.
Considering the use of space and maximising its flexibility allows SMEs to get the most out of their small team and develop an inspiring and attractive collaborative dynamic. Provide your employees with the space to think freely, and watch the results follow.