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Unexpected ways to increase workplace collaboration and productivity

May 16, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

When you think of ways to increase collaboration at work you might consider bringing remote employees in-house and creating open work spaces.  But surprisingly, these methods could backfire.

Office environment isn’t the only answer, or even the right answer, to improving collaboration and productivity.  It requires culture change, policy adjustment, and planning. recently posted five unusual ways to improve collaboration:

1. Put the Walls Back Up
The ambient noise and visual distractions caused by open workspaces can actually result in a loss of productivity and collaboration. Employees often feel less comfortable discussing a project when out in the open.  They worry about disturbing others.  In addition, employees should have a quiet, comfortable place to work distraction-free, but also a private place to meet with co-workers when necessary.  Noisy co-workers, gossip, and co-workers stopping by were listed as major productivity killers in a recent CareerBuilder survey.

2. Build a Communications Policy
With all the technology available today employees can communicate very easily with each other whether via instant messaging, email, project management tools, etc.  But it’s important to set guidelines around the expectations and usage of these tools.  While it may be reasonable to expect a response with the working day, it might not be reasonable to expect immediate responses.  This allows time for employees to set aside “work” time and not worry about emails, etc. 

3. Implement “No Agenda, No Meeting” Rule
A meeting without an agenda can run off course and waste everyone’s valuable time.  Agendas help the group stay on task and reduces off-topic discussions.  Collaboration is much more effective when everyone knows the topics for discussion and what is expected of them.  Team members can come to the meeting prepared with the information they need to be truly collaborative.

4. Be Supportive of Remote Work
Top talent today is seeking work-life balance and expects to be able to work remotely at least part-time or as needed.  With the younger generations taking over the workforce, this is becoming more and more the trend.  It’s important to support employees with the proper technology that allows remote work to remain collaborative such as video conferencing, chat programs, screensharing, and remote desktop access.  A two-year study by Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom showed an astounding productivity boost among telecommuters compared to office workers. In addition, employee attrition decreased by 50% among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.  Don’t assume bringing an employee into the office will automatically increase collaboration or productivity.

5. Build Relationships via Tough Conversations
Openness and honesty are two pillars that must exist for true collaboration to exist.  To effectively collaborate the team must be able to work through conflict and give and receive criticism as necessary.  Honest conversations must be able to take place.  These conversations should build the relationships among the team members, not erode them.  When employees can openly discuss issues and share opinions, true collaboration will exist.

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