Collaboration and design of the workplace

h2index has already seen profound changes in the workplace of organisations that have implemented complex collaborative working to large numbers of employees covering many use cases. Systems include Microsoft Office 365 and Lync, Cisco and Google.  There are impacts on the:

  • behaviour of staff
  • company culture
  • workplace design

Staff behaviour
Staff behaviour is subtly changing and we expect to see more new ideas and trends. One specific example is that video conferencing can be much more productive than an audio conferences. Many audio conferences had large numbers of people attending, most of them only needing to be there for a short part of the meeting or to represent a department. Consequently, many attendees simply sat there reading their emails: no-one could see what they were doing. This made the meetings unwieldy and overlong. With video conferencing, everyone can see if you aren’t paying attention. As a result, people who don’t need to be there, pull out, leaving a smaller focussed group and the meeting is faster and more productive.

Company culture
Nobody who’s tried it would willingly give up the ability to work from home some of the time; as well as helping people deal with domestic demands (I have to let the gas man in…) it can provide a productive place for more thoughtful work, and a relief from the constant pressure of commuting. And well organised, it can reduce demands on office space and services – significantly.

But it can go too far, and we’re seeing companies become concerned about the more informal interactions between people, and possibly losing important components of company culture – especially for new staff, who don’t get the chance to learn it.

So now, some of our clients are actively looking at new ways to bring staff back together to recreate the “water cooler moments”, where people learn the things they didn’t know they needed to learn! This doesn’t mean they’re stopping home working – far from it, but they are explicitly seeking a balance between “on-premise” and “off-premise” working that works for them.

Workplace design
One of the major benefits of collaboration and home working is the reduced requirement for office space giving huge cost savings. At the same time, the design requirement for office space is changing too. Employees have several key requirements of their workplace:

  • Peace and quiet to work
  • Somewhere to talk on the phone without disturbing others
  • Meeting rooms for brainstorming or collaborative working rooms with multiple screens for video, documents and whiteboards
  • Conference rooms
  • Casual meeting places or coffee shops
  • Project team and workgroup facilities which can be assembled and disbanded over a period of a few days or weeks.
  • Systems to enable visitors and other staff to find you (in person)

The workplace has to be flexible, and so interesting designs are emerging, many of them made possible by the emerging unified communications technologies.