The world of work runs on collaboration. Across group projects, working in teams to hand in on time, and even relying on coworkers as an insightful resource, cooperation is at the heart of every single business. Yet, despite the importance of collaboration, few businesses actively facilitate it in the workplace.

Creating collaborative workspaces allows your business to invest in spaces where employees can work in tandem and thrive. These don’t have to be radically different spaces but must provide ample room for conversation, shared work, and brainstorming. Most of the time, organisations have opted for standard meeting rooms, allocating them for cooperative work.

However, with the recent shift toward group working, we’re now seeing leading companies like Apple, Amazon, and other giants reengineer entire offices to facilitate collaboration. In this article, we’ll dive into the power of collaborative workspaces, covering everything your business needs to know, like:

  • The benefits of collaborative workspaces
  • How to build stronger teamwork with collaborative workspaces
  • Exploring types of collaborative workspaces in your office space
  • What are hotdesks: How to customise your collaborative workspace
  • How to use collaborative workspaces for creativity
  • Boost employee morale with collaborative workspaces
  • How to increase productivity with collaborative workspace

Let’s dive right in.

What are collaborative workspaces?

Collaborative workspaces are provided by a business that allows employees to come together to work on projects. Some spaces are specifically for conversation, facilitating brainstorming sessions, planning meetings, or other collaborative endeavours. Alternatively, some companies enjoy creating collaborative workspaces where many employees can come together and work independently. 

The idea of creating a collaborative space for independent work may seem strange at first. The concept actually comes from child development psychology and is known as “Parallel Play.” Parallel play is where people exist in the same space but work independently on their own tasks. In child development, the act of two children playing with different toys in the same space can make them feel more connected to one another

Facilitating these environments in an office ensures that employees can actively feel a part of the company culture. Equally, just like when you’re working in a public library, an atmosphere where everyone contributes to getting on with their own work helps to create an incredibly powerful and productive environment.

While these independent-collaborative spaces are becoming more popular, they are still far surpassed by traditional coworking environments. Especially considering over one in four companies currently offer hybrid work, any opportunity to bring your employees together in a high-quality space is a win.

These spaces are fantastic at improving employee morale, fostering great communication, and inspiring collaboration between teams and employees.

The benefits of collaborative workspaces

For much of history, the traditional office resembled what many of us would now consider an office from hell – a small, dark, cramped cubicle-style space with artificial lighting. Luckily, over the past few decades, the social idea of the ‘ideal’ workspace has radically shifted. One needs to only look at the Apple Park – Apple’s $5 billion office space – to see how the perceived perfect office space has now shifted.

Businesses are increasingly realising the potential of their office spaces to bring out the best in their employees. Collaborative workspaces are one of these examples, ensuring that employees get more out of the time they spend in the office. There are a number of leading benefits of using collaborative workspaces:

  • Improved Company Culture – While many employers overlook this fact, the reality is that many adults use their work as one of the only ways of making friends. The world is currently going through a loneliness epidemic, with collaborative workspaces giving people the opportunity to connect with others and make new friends. Creating workplace bonds with coworkers can help to lift employee morale, creating a healthier working environment for all.
  • Enhanced Collaboration – 75% of employers rate collaboration as ‘very important’ when evaluating performance reviews. The reason behind this high statistic is simply that collaboration allows people to get more done in less time. Splitting tasks between people and assigning tasks based on people’s skill sets will help everyone to shine. Collaborative workspaces actively facilitate cooperation, helping everyone to work better in a team and get more done.
  • Shared Intelligence – Shared intelligence is a relatively new term in the world of business. In short, it refers to an organisation’s ability to draw on the intellectual resources of multiple employees to produce a better final product. If one employee had to cover the whole process of product design and planning, it’s likely that the final creation would be worse than if 10 people all worked together on it. Collaborative workspaces facilitate cooperation, with employees having the ability to draw on the creative and intellectual resources of their coworkers to overcome challenges in their own work. After all, two heads are better than one!

Luckily, creating collaborative workspaces doesn’t have to cost you $5 billion. On the contrary, you can start adapting your office in much smaller ways to facilitate these spaces. For example, you could create office zones, some for quieter work and some for collaboration.

Alternatively, you could – as many leading companies have already done – install a number of meeting pods across your floor plan. These pods are booths where between two and four employees can come together to share space in a private, sound-resistant, and fully-equipped meeting booth.

If you don’t have the capital to expand your office to create designated collaborative workspaces, these office phone booth pods can be an excellent option.

Building stronger teamwork with collaborative workspaces

One of the core benefits of investing in collaborative workspaces is that it allows businesses to radically increase their potential for teamwork. These spaces bring employees together, helping them to tackle project-related tasks or simply to socialise while they get on with their own work.

However, just having a designated zone for collaborative work may not necessarily be enough to actually inspire any changes in your workplace. Most employers need to take additional steps to both facilitate and streamline teamwork in these spaces. Especially if you have only just started using collaborative workspaces, your teams may need time to adjust and feel comfortable.

Here are some ways you can inspire better teamwork in shared spaces:

  • Define Your Rules – Collaborative workspaces can come in many sizes, ranging from sites for parallel play to open forums where everyone can chat with everyone. Depending on what atmosphere you want to construct, you should endeavour to create rules for the spaces that people know about. Often, uncertainty about what the space should be used for will cause your employees to be more hesitant about the area itself. Instead, you can make sure that employees know that they can talk freely and chat in the space, allowing them to foster lines of communication in their own way.
  • Emphasise Team Achievement – If you want people to work better in teams, then you should highlight team contribution over all else in your office. For example, instead of emphasising the positive performance of one or two employees from a team, managers should instead congratulate entire teams on their progress that week or month. If employees see that their contributions are valued more in a group than individually, they will understand that working on collaborative tasks is the way of being noticed.
  • Managers Should Lead the Way – Although workplaces typically tend to present themselves as a democratic system, there tends to be a natural hierarchy due to different roles in the business. For example, most employees will report to a manager who will also report to their own manager, and so on up the chain of command. If you want to instill cultural changes in your business and prioritise teamwork, you need to do so from the top down. Wherever you can, have managers and executives use these shared spaces and make appearances in them. If the leaders of your business engage in these spaces, others will follow, and teamwork will start to flourish. 

One aspect that managers should consider, especially when focusing on team-based feedback, is that you can still balance individual feedback within this initiative. Many top performers thrive on positive feedback. Due to this desire, if you only offer reflections on how a team is doing, your best talent may feel like they’re putting in lots of work without being seen for it.

It’s a good idea to continue individual feedback while still fostering a team-first approach. This more dynamic system will help to improve rates of teamwork in your collaborative workspaces while still allowing each employee to carry out their own workplace journey.

Exploring types of collaborative workspaces in your office space

As we previously mentioned, there are a number of different ways you can create collaborative workspaces. Not every company approaches this in the same manner, with some preferring open office plans while others prefer a zoned approach to having their employees work together.

Whatever you prefer will likely come from a process of trial and error. Equally, it’s a good idea to give your employees several different options as this will let them find their own preferred working dynamic. 

Over the last few years, we’ve had another collaborative workspace enter the area: the digital workspace. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a whole new cohort of workers entered the digital space, with 57% of employees working from home for the first time over this period. Virtual environments like Zoom, Google Meets, and other video conference platforms expanded hugely over the pandemic, becoming a core part of the modern working culture.

Even when working from home, the desire for employees to connect with others over these platforms is a great example of just how powerful they can be. Yet, even though the majority of the workforce is now back in the office, the desire for these spaces continues.

There are a number of different office architectures and structures that fall under the umbrella of collaborative workspaces:

  • Open Offices – Open office floor plans are one of the leading workplace architectures of the modern-day office. Open offices allow workers to find space in the office that they like, removing the notion of each person having a fixed desk to go to. By allowing people the flexibility to work from anywhere in your office, you increase the chance that they collaborate with others and build relationships with coworkers in the office. It’s important to pair the open office structure with the possibility of finding privacy in the office, which is another important factor in helping employees reach their maximum potential. 
  • Collaborative Meeting Rooms – Collaborative meeting rooms are quickly becoming the most popular format for coworking spaces. Offices can build, hire, or install office meeting pods in their office. As we previously mentioned, these are perfectly sized for small groups or meetings of up to four people. Creating a comfy and private space for collaborative work can help people get into a deep working zone, getting more done at work and reaching new levels of productivity. 
  • Hybrid Spaces – Hybrid spaces are a new entry into this arena, spiking over the past few years as more than 30% of the US workforce move toward a hybrid working system. Many employees will now only visit the office a few times a week. This decreased flow of employee traffic allows businesses to scale back their offices and invest in higher-quality collaborative workspaces. By creating a wonderful workplace environment that inspires workers to come to work, you’re allowing people to get more from the days that they come into the office. For many employees who don’t want to come in, supplying them with a wonderful office space is a great way of incentivising office work. 

As the world of work continues to evolve, we’re likely going to see another range of new office architectures evolve. While the open office may be the most popular system of the current day, this could easily shift into collaborative meeting rooms or another unknown system in the future. The magic of the workplace is that it’s always changing and adapting – just like the employees that exist in these spaces.

If you’d like to learn more about collaborative workplaces and the leading architectural models behind them, we’ve written a more extensive guide here.

People sitting in an office environment

What are hotdesks: How to customise your collaborative workspace

Hotdesks are a relatively new method of organising an office where you allow employees to sit absolutely anywhere. Instead of having certain sections where the marketing team work and another for the legal team, you create a more open system where people can simply rock up at any desk and get to work.

The psychology behind hotdesking comes from the need for new stimuli. Studies demonstrate that a fantastic way of keeping your employees engaged can be to change their physical space. Of course, you can’t rearrange the office overnight every single night of the week. Instead, allowing employees to select their own workspace for the day can help them get a fresh dose of the office every single day.

What are the benefits of hotdesks?

One of the leading benefits of using hotdeks in your workplace is that they allow employees to connect with others that they wouldn’t typically work with. The modern-day workplace normally characterises people in the office by the department they’re in. HR sticks with HR, while finance only really works with finance. The lack of inter-department connections can lead to a lack of familiarity with coworkers that can end up harming company culture.

On the contrary, hotdesks allow people to freely flow across the office, sitting next to new people and discovering friends in departments that they perhaps had never come across before. Creating strong employee relationships is one of the leading factors when it comes to boosting happiness at work, which can have a significant impact on the overall productivity of your workforce.

Hotdesks are a wonderful, and easy, way of radically changing your office to a more flexible, free, and accessible space. If you’re not sure how to begin, we recommend you read our article on how to get the most out of hotdesks. If you simply want to dive into a hotdesk experiment, you can set out a period of one to three months where you dissolve all seating charts in your office.

By letting employees freely go where they want, you’ll increase the chance of cross-department socialisation. However, note that if you change from fixed desks to hot desks overnight, many people will simply just go back to where they’ve always sat. Due to this, it’s important to mix up the actual seating structure of your office.

Move tables around, shift the position of chairs, create larger banks of central tables, and maximise the opportunity of your employees to encounter new workplace friends. 

Where does hotdesking come from?

The rise in hotdesking comes directly from the rising freelance movement across the globe. The freelance economy is rapidly expanding, with more employees than ever before taking their skills and monetising them without the help of one employment company. The shift to freelance work has engendered a desire in many for a pseudo-office space that they can commute to.

In 2023, there are now over 20,000 coworking sites across the globe, which are the regular home to over 1,000,000 freelancers on a daily basis. These coworking sites offer a hotdesk structure that allows people to simply arrive at the coworking site and get to work wherever they’d like. 

Not only does this method allow people to get started without having to know about the specific layout of the new coworking space they’re in, but it also facilitates the possibility for freelancers to make connections with others in their area. This method has been extremely successful over the past decade, with workplaces now seeing its potential and wanting to mirror it in their own hotdesk function.

If your business has never tried out hotdesking before, we recommend that you give it a go over the coming months and see just how productive it can be for your workforce. 

How to use collaborative workspaces for creativity

Creativity is a fundamental skill for the modern workplace, with the vast majority of individuals using this soft skill every single day. In fact, around 80% of the US workforce state that they are asked to think creatively as a core part of their role. Especially in fields that are more directly connected with this skill, like advertising or marketing, creativity becomes one of the most important business pursuits.

Despite its importance, many businesses don’t understand how to effectively create a space where their employees can work creatively. For the vast majority of employees, creativity and collaboration frequently come in a pair, with brainstorming activities or working with another person allowing both to feel more creative.

In order to facilitate creativity in an office space, businesses can focus on constructing collaborative workspaces where people can work together to achieve their common goals. Beyond just providing these spaces, the best way to help people reach their maximum potential in terms of creativity is actually providing a flexible approach.

While some employees may prefer to work exclusively in a collaborative workspace, others may prefer a balance between more private settings. The best way to boost creativity and provide a flexible space is by supplying three core areas:

  • Collaborative Zones – First of all, collaborative spaces allow people to come together and maximise their joint productivity. We’ve seen this time and time again with employees using one another to sound out ideas and streamline workflows. Even within the coworking movement, traces of the need to connect with others to perform better yourself are resoundingly present.
  • Silent Areas – Sometimes, to get the most out of our working days, we need to lock ourselves away and concentrate. One of the biggest downsides to collaborative workspaces is that they can often cause employees to lose concentration. Even one small distraction can make a big difference, with an interruption taking around 25 minutes to recover fully from. If you’re in a noisy space with a new distraction every 5 minutes, a silent working space to escape to will be the perfect getaway if you need some more supportive conditions.
  • Third-Spaces – Third spaces in an office are connected areas that aren’t directly related to working. For example, your building may have a coffee shop or canteen where employees can go to get away from the bustling working conditions. If they need it, spending 15 minutes to half an hour resting in one of these third spaces can help to relax the employee and renew their energy. We all need a little downtime if we’re going to get our best work done. By creating these third spaces in your office, you let people recharge so they can always give 100% when needed.

Collaborative workspaces are inherently creative spaces. Yet, we don’t all work in the same way. By creating a more dynamic range of options for employees, which allows them to move between different working conditions, they can pair their environment with their internal emotions. 

Always focus on creating a flexible, well-structured, and zoned office where your employees can find exactly what they’re looking for. 

Boost employee morale with collaborative workspaces

The relationship between employee happiness and productivity has become a central topic of work-related discussion over the last few years. With the publication of studies that demonstrate that employees are around 12% more productive if they feel happy at work, businesses around the globe are beginning to prioritise the morale of their workforces. 

There are numerous methods that an organisation can employ to increase happiness at work. These range from increased financial compensation to a higher degree of support for mental health services at work. Yet, one of the easiest ways of doing so is to increase the potential for workplace friendships.

How do workplace friendships bolster employee morale?

Engaged employees are typically those who have good social connections in an office. If someone feels isolated, they are much less likely to go out of their way to shine in an office, preferring to fly under the radar. Equally, if someone doesn’t enjoy going to work each day, it could seriously impact their mental health in the long run. 

Collaborative workspaces can be a phenomenal way of increasing employee morale at work. These spaces provide a unique site where people can come together and chat with people they may not have come across before at work. For example, someone from marketing may only rarely communicate with someone from finances, and typically over email.

Yet, in collaborative workspaces where everyone can come and go as they’d like, employees will meet others with much more frequency. These meetings can give way to new friendships, increasing the enjoyment of the average employee as they come into the office.

Many offices enjoy coupling the collaborative workspace idea with a number of parallel initiatives that help raise employee morale. For example, an office could plan after-work drinks or social gatherings, even using the office space to host these events. Giving employees an opportunity to spend time with each other will help them to solidify friendships, create a sense of belonging, and connect on a more personal level with the workplace they spend their time in.

Collaborative workspaces are the key to this change, creating a wonderful space where you demonstrate your commitment to putting your employees first.

How to increase productivity with collaborative workspace

Finally, we turn to the benefit that most employers seek to gain from collaborative workspace. Many organisations focus on constructing collaborative workspaces due to their fundamental positive impact on employee productivity. In fact, in a study that explored how top-performing employees spend their time, 45% of their total designation was spent on collaborative work.

Creating collaborative workspaces ensures that you have a central site where employees are able to work on tasks together. In the modern workplace, the vast majority of all work is cooperative in some format. People either work with a specific coworker or with their entire team to deliver projects on time.

Yet, going beyond this, businesses can increase productivity by using collaborative workspaces as:

  • They Bring a Social Factor – Burnout is one of the leading causes of poor work quality. Giving people space where they can chat to coworkers freely and relax while still working will go a long way toward boosting productivity.
  • They Offer Brainstorming Opportunities – Sharing ideas, asking for help, and simply working together on a common problem can push people to be more productive. Often, when working in a team, there is an expectation to contribute, which drives people to work harder and perform better.
  • They Increase Product Quality – People work best when they feel like their work is having an impact. Studies show that product quality and product development are 34% and 30% better when coming out of collaborative environments.

Whichever benefit your business is searching for, you’ll likely find collaborative workspaces as one of the top integrations you can make.

Final Thoughts

Collaborative workspaces are the new work trend that’s sweeping across the globe. In our era of remote and hybrid working, more organisations than ever before are realising the power of creating an office space that people actually want to come to. Especially for hybrid office candidates, a stunning central space where employees can come together to work on joint projects will encourage more people back into the office.

Building a collaborative workspace in your office goes far beyond just investing in the space itself. Collaborative work is a cultural change in your organisation that can definitely take some getting used to. However, with some top-down leadership, alongside the prioritisation of interacting with these spaces, your office could convert into a thriving, social space.

Collaborative workspaces offer higher rates of creativity, increased productivity, and, most importantly, happier employees. If you’re looking to make a radical change in 2024 to put your employees first, then investing in the foundational architecture, like office work pods, could be a striking way to start your year. If you’d like to learn more about how collaborative office phone booths can change your working dynamic, reach out to the team at MEAVO today.