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What’s the difference between collaboration and cooperation?

Many people don’t realise that there is a difference. After all, they are both worthwhile behaviours that will make the workplace a happier place. But only one of them will definitely make a difference to your business results. Evoke Projects explores workplace collaboration and cooperation explaining how your office design and fit-out can support the one that really matters.

Let’s start with cooperation. Of course, it’s important. Team members who work cooperatively help each other to achieve their goals by giving advice, facilitating a process or assisting with a project. Collaboration, on the other hand, is a united effort towards a common goal. True collaboration has a synergistic effect because while individual achievements might translate into short term revenue or profits, collaboration adds value to the workflow resulting in longer term gains. It also improves morale and promotes a positive work culture.

Collaboration involves sharing ideas, brainstorming and contributing towards an outcome. Varied skills are brought together and given the opportunity to work at their optimum level. If all this sounds beneficial to your workplace, how can you promote collaboration?

Firstly, it’s important to set and communicate goals, both large and small. Help people to visualise how their role can contribute. Once these goals are in place, the office design and layout should be adjusted to support collaborative working. A simple office refurbishment will be enough for some businesses while others may require a new office design and office fit-out.

These office design tips will support collaboration in your workplace:

1. Make your office fit-out more agile, giving people freedom to work in different places according to their current task. This is often called Activity Based Working. A new office design supporting Activity Based Working would include quiet working zones, private meeting rooms, group meeting pods, open workstation areas and breakout spaces.

2. Decide how much flexibility to give people before you start designing the new office fit-out. For example, you can give complete flexibility to use workstations with a ‘hot desking’ model where desks are assigned on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. This model can also work with meeting rooms or pods. ‘Hoteling’ is a less flexible option, where staff reserve various workplace areas in advance using a booking system. This can stifle collaboration if zones are unavailable so keep some non-bookable ‘walk-in’ spaces free.

3. It’s important for people to be comfortable with each other if they are to feel confident about collaborating. This includes understanding each other’s work and skills, as well as social comfort. There could be skills within work teams that are not understood by others, leading to lost collaborative opportunities. Improve understanding with formal presentations combined with a flexible office design and Activity Based Working which leads to exposure of other teams at work.

4. For social familiarity, breakout zones are perfect spaces to encounter other people for an informal chat. Culturally, it’s important to regard breakout spaces as another place where work happens, rather than making people feel like shirkers! Encourage socialising out of work as well – a lunchtime walking group, a work trivia team or a charity fundraiser are all ice-breakers and help people to get to know each other.

5. Traditional office designs had a large focus on filing and storage spaces within the office fit-out. Today’s teams are increasingly spread around geographically or working from home. This means that file sharing and cloud IT solutions will be at the heart of modern office design discussions. The right software can make or break effective collaboration in the mobile workplace.

6. Ask managers to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to collaboration. Be visible and use the Activity Based Working zones rather than sitting in a private office all day. When you’re next planning an office fit-out or office refurbishment, consider whether managers need their own office. Perhaps hot desking and hoteling systems will work for managers too.

7. Finally, once you have provided the goals and created a collaborative office design and fit-out, let people know that their thoughts are important. Look for ways to encourage creativity and thinking outside the box, and bear in mind that it’s often the quiet workers whose contributions are missed!

To find out more about office fit-outs and office refurbishments that improve collaboration, please call Evoke Projects’ office design team on 1300 720 692.

Book a meeting Call 1300 720 692

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