23 April, 2024
Creating a collaborative culture through office design
How do you design your office to foster teamwork and cultivate collaboration? Click here to find out more.

We’re working in a hybrid world where some of us work in the office all the time, some work in the office some of the time, and some almost never work in the office. That diversity of use has lots of benefits and a few challenges as well, but what it definitely means is that we have to think about the workplace differently, especially when it comes to collaboration.

While some organisations are more hybrid than others, one thing remains true across the board – collaboration is important and that needs greater strategic focus in an environment where there are lots of different ways of working. So, how do you design your office to foster teamwork and cultivate a collaborative culture?


What is a collaborative workplace?

First of all, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. A collaborative workplace is not simply one where people do work together, but one that helps employees work together to achieve common goals. Collaboration is an essential function of teamwork, and to help employees achieve that successfully, they need the right physical environment and cultural mindset around them. 

Why is collaboration at work important?

Collaboration is widely recognised as a powerful tool that’s cultivated in the most successful workplaces, fuelling innovation by bringing out the best in employees. Forbes wrote:

“Research from Stanford reveals that working in a collaborative setting makes employees 50% more effective at task completion, while also boosting their engagement and motivation.”

With connectivity being a pivotal part of employee wellbeing, and engagement being central to success in the workplace, collaboration has wide-reaching benefits supporting your number one asset – your team.

The benefits of a collaborative workplace are widely reported as including (but not limited to): 

  • Improved productivity
  • More effective problem solving 
  • Better workplace relationships 
  • Innovative new ideas and solutions 
  • Increased productivity 
  • Idea generation 
  • Greater efficiency
  • Improved learning and development 
  • Engaged and aligned teams
  • Appreciation of different perspectives 
  • Improved talent retention
  • Improved business agility 
  • Better client relationships  

What are the barriers to collaboration at work?

The things that make it difficult for people to collaborate in the workplace are as many and varied as the benefits – some are physical, some are cultural. Designing a workplace that cultivates collaboration is as much about removing barriers as creating opportunities.

Some of main challenges to collaboration include:

  • Insufficient access to people (floorspace design)
  • Insufficient access to information
  • Outdated technology that makes it hard to communicate with different teams
  • Distractions (not enough purpose-designed spaces for different work types)
  • Poor communication
  • Silo mentality
  • Divergent goals
  • Lack of trust
  • Inadequate resources
  • Conflicting personalities

How can office design influence collaboration?

You can’t force collaboration at work, instead you need to create spaces that provide opportunities for it to happen easily and organically, removing barriers and maximising incentives.

Of course, something like differences in personality might not be overcome by the design of your office. However, how you create spaces to help people work harmoniously, understand one another and get to know one another can help to create unity that’s then reflected in work outcomes.

Office design can be a powerful tool for influencing workplace behaviours- encouraging spontaneous interactions, communication between team members, and the unscheduled conversations that ultimately lead to new ideas. For example, open floor plans, shared work areas, and breakout spaces are effective in promoting collaboration among team members.

Open plan offices

While some quiet, independent work areas are necessary for specific tasks and sectors, a general move away from traditional cubicles and closed doors is transforming office landscapes. The reason is that we realise people can often work from home or other chosen spaces when doing focused work, making the office even more of a hub for collaboration. Literally breaking down walls or using acoustic glass for separation whilst retaining flow and connectivity in the space, encourages interaction which naturally leads to collaboration, communication and improved teamwork.

Flexible workspaces

Flexible zones that allow people to choose how they work for different tasks creates a more relaxed and comfortable attitude amongst employees, pulling up a chair if they need to work with a team member and moving to more casual seating areas and huddle spaces. 

Collaborative workstations 

Purpose built collaborative workstations, diverse meeting rooms that can be opened up for larger get-togethers, and seamless tech integration to enable connectivity with clients and colleagues in different locations. All these things remove barriers and maximise the opportunity to collaborate – inviting people to proactively work together.

Social spaces

It’s not just desk spaces that influence how comfortable people feel working together. Create routes around the office for people to cross paths, encourage movement through centralised staircases instead of placing them out of the way, implement social areas including wellness rooms, tea points and staff breakout areas. These are all fundamental to facilitating relationship-building and the exchange of ideas outside the confines of a structured meeting.

What does a collaborative workplace look like?

How your office fosters collaboration is personal to your organisation, your team and your goals. While there are tools that can be used to encourage teamwork, it’s important that they are developed and customised to meet your specific needs and character for them to work well for you. Here are some examples of where we have created spaces to cultivate workplace collaboration and teamwork:

Flexible workspaces 

At the UK headquarters for leading tech firm ServiceNow, collaboration was an essential feature of the working environment. There was a focus on more hub locations to enable teams to gather and meet, more flexible workspace and more community areas. For example, open spaces and collapsable walls provided an opportunity to expand and contract areas for different team sizes and collective conversations whilst still retaining necessary privacy. Meanwhile, a variety of seating areas ranging from dedicated desk space to private pods, lounge areas and a convivial kitchen area all lend themselves to easy conversations and connections.

Pathways for communication

At leading tech firm, Datatonic, their blue cross logo became the basis on which we brought teams together by encouraging movement through the space. We formed three circular areas with the cross running through in the carpet and in acoustic panels on the ceiling, creating literal pathways around the office, connecting one space to the next. They led team members on a journey through the office both to one another and to different areas from collaborative spaces to individual booths for quiet, concentrated working or one-to-one conversations.  

Living and breathing the brand 

When young American IoT company Samsara set out to create a London HQ almost entirely focused on their sales team, they wanted a space that nurtured complete brand buy-in amongst staff. They wanted team members to live and breathe the brand while at work. With that in mind, we used their colours – blues and yellows – throughout, to create visual interest on surfaces ranging from the staircase to parts of the exposed ceiling.  All of this sat alongside key behavioural aspects of the space, such as areas that foster a sense of community, a large food service area and an idea floor dedicated to socialising.  

Want to create a workspace that fosters collaboration?

Speak to the team at Maris