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  • Writer's pictureEmily Fiddes

Why do our collaboration spaces gather dust?

Collaboration is a bit of a buzz word.


I often ask my clients “what is the purpose of your office?” and more often than not, the word “collaboration” comes up. Yet, despite the best intentions, many collaboration spaces sit underutilised. They were designed for fostering the vibrant exchange of ideas, not merely to break up desk groupings. Here I want to share some common blockers that may be hindering collaboration in your workplace:

 

"I don't have time, I have too much to do"

One common obstacle is the 'busyness' in the culture of work today. Individuals often feel so stretched with their own tasks and responsibilities, they're left with little time. Add to that the back-to-back meeting hangover from remote working and collaboration is seen as a luxury. Cultures sometimes reinforce this mindset, emphasising presenteeism and individual competitiveness. To truly harness the power of collaboration, organisations must prioritise a culture of collective success (we not me) and enable individuals to carve out dedicated time for exploration, creation and innovation.


"If I'm seen there, people will think I'm slacking"

Another barrier stems from fear of judgement. If there is a culture of ‘always on’, collaborative settings that appear informal and relaxed may discourage people from using them, as they fear it doesn’t look like work. It's important to work with, not against the culture. It may be a case of meeting in the middle; creating a culture where collaboration is valued as important work, whilst also establishing settings that suit the formality or otherwise of the business.


"I'll just book a meeting room

People often default to using meeting rooms for all forms of 'together' work, regardless of whether full privacy is needed. This overreliance on formal meeting settings is not only costly but also undermines the purpose of creating diverse environments; rendering alternative collaboration spaces 'useless'. Providing training on the functionality of different settings as well as guidance on selecting the most suitable setting for the task at hand, can help alleviate the issue and ensure that spaces serve their intended function.


"It doesn't have what I need"

Often, there is a mismatch between the features of spaces provided and the needs of users. If the collaborative work to be done relies on access to a screen, a whiteboard and the ability to get up and move around, then a comfy lounge type setting isn't going to be much use. It's important to understand what collaboration looks like for your organisation. Collaboration is a huge umbrella term for any work done with others and its specifics can vary hugely by sector, business, role and individual needs. It's crucial to understand the unique requirements of your people and design spaces accordingly.

 

Creating vibrant and functional collaboration spaces requires more than just nice looking spaces. It requires a holistic approach that takes into account culture, individual preferences and practical needs. Engaging with employees throughout the process - from understanding their requirements to supporting changes in ways of working - is essential for fostering a culture of collaboration and unlocking the full potential of these spaces. By addressing the blockers and tailoring solutions to the specific context of the organisation, we can shake the dust off collaboration spaces and restore them to dynamic hubs of creativity and innovation that bring purpose to your space.


An office with large windows has a corner with a collaboration area. This is formed of a sofa, coffee table, two chairs. Theis area is enhanced by plants and some interior decorartion.

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