Call us today

How and Why Being in the Office Improves Collaboration

Work is no longer a destination but instead an activity occurring widely throughout various locations, like the home and office. Within a work-from-anywhere ecosystem, however, the office remains the central hub where work and collaboration occur. According to one recent survey from JLL, 72% of respondents see the office as the primary center around which work revolves, with a similar 77% saying quality office space remains a priority.

As we seek to better understand what bringing people into the office looks like—for today and in the future—it’s important to recognize one size won’t fit all. Improving collaboration will look different based on industry, culture, and organizational needs.

Make the Office a Desirable Choice

One of the keys to improving collaboration is encouraging employees to make the conscious choice to come into the office because it benefits their work and business relationships.

According to research from CBRE, about 60% of Asia-Pacific organizations, 70% of US organizations, and 80% of European and Middle Eastern organizations have a hybrid or flexible work policy that allows people to balance some of their time at home and some of their time in the office. This indicates that hybrid work is likely here to stay, as people demand it and organizations have widely implemented hybrid programs across their workplaces. However, the same survey found that only about 50% of US employees, 35% of European and Middle Eastern employees, and 25% of Asia-Pacific employees have control over whether or not they go into the office daily.

Digging even deeper, we’ve learned improving collaboration and group work is one of the main drivers for bringing employees into the office at least a few days per week. Indeed, the office is a much better environment for intensely collaborative and complex tasks compared to a space at home dedicated to individual work.

Key Themes for Current & Future Workplace Design

These findings line up well with the hundreds of conversations Haworth has had with customers on the topic. In response, we focus on 5 key themes we found to be influencing the future of office work.

1.    Immersive Technology

Building connections with collaboration technology throughout the entire office

Spaces & Features:
•    Collaboration and videoconferencing software
•    Virtual touchdown spaces
•    Screen sharing in open collaborative spaces
•    Room booking technology – both walkup and pre-scheduling

2.   More Collaboration

Offering a variety of unassigned Social Spaces that support a range of group activities

Spaces & Features:
•    More open collaboration areas
•    Team focused workstations that allow idea sharing and connection
•    Freestanding architecture that creates project spaces
•    Maintaining some enclosed rooms for focused or private group work

3.    Focus to Restore

Providing spaces to rest and recharge is just as important as having spaces designed for work tasks

Spaces & Features:
•    Retreat and relaxation spaces
•    Workspaces that offer user control and easy mode-switching
•    Work cafés and refresh areas

4.    Space Shift

Offering variety and choice in unassigned Social Spaces to support a range of group activities

Spaces & Features:
•    Meeting spaces with support for a variety of people and postures
•    Various applications, each with the right tools and accommodations for specific collaborative modes
•    Open spaces with mobile tools and flexible furniture

5.    More Human

Creating welcoming spaces that foster well-being and encourage people to express themselves

Spaces & Features:
•    Updated materials with a timeless, hospitable aesthetic
•    Work cafés with a variety of applications that suit individuals and groups
•    User control within workstation areas that allow for orientation changes to collaborate or separate from high-traffic areas

Specifically, “More Collaboration” is viewed as essential to the future of the office environment and its functions. Intertwined within the need for greater collaboration is the need for a quality office environment that invites, welcomes, and supports employees.

Social Connections Improve Collaboration

To bring in employees who would otherwise stay home, organizations should work to create an environment that fixes the challenges remote work can create. For example, in a Microsoft survey, 70% of survey respondents said that the social element of collaboration was an important aspect that was harmed by remote-only collaboration. In the same survey, spontaneity, creativity, and effective communication were also seen as potential losses for remote-only collaboration.

Creating an office environment that fosters close connections and socializing is a great way to improve relationships, and in turn collaboration. An office environment with more coworkers who are closely connected will also help increase the opportunity for spontaneous touchpoints and encourage clearer communication. It’s also important to note that a lack of work tools was not a significant issue, indicating that cultivating relationships is really what drives people back to work.

While there is evidence to suggest employees’ closest relationships were somewhat enhanced due to remote work, there is also ample evidence that says people have become increasingly disconnected from the people they don’t work with every day but would typically see around the office environment. This makes intuitive sense, as people went from seeing a wider variety of people in the office to typically working in smaller teams that could be effective working together digitally.

Read more: