Three Signs that Collaboration in the Workplace is on the Rise

In the past, going to your job meant going to a place where your individual skills were highlighted as the main purpose of your work. Everyone did their part and together, the work was completed. People went to their offices, closed the door and worked hard.

The times are changing.

Today, our society has shifted to the concept of team-work being the most vital aspect of every office. Let’s look at three signs that collaboration in the workplace is on the rise:

  1. Online Collaboration. Technological advances have affected the job world in that information is easily available and literally at our fingertips, through the internet. Added to that is the fact that you can work on a problem with someone across the country or world, not just the person in the next cubicle. Because of these developments, it is becoming the norm to work online with others. This kind of collaboration is not just for folks across the country, but also in the office. Four people can work on a problem or project easily together by getting on their computers. The internet makes this kind of team work feasible, easy and profitable.

  2. Workplace to Work Space. Offices-only design gave way to the design of offices with cubicles in an open space. With the onset of collaboration in the workplace becoming the norm, offices and cubicles are now being replaced with “work spaces.” Open-plan offices in which no one has a room of one’s own is the norm. There are many perks to this style of office, primarily the openness and transparency fostered between co-workers and departments. It’s easier to work together when you have line-of-sight to your other team members and open rooms where collaboration can happen spontaneously. In fact, the average amount of individual space allotted to each employee has shrank from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

  3. The Swing of the Pendulum. As with most changes in style, a pendulum has swung in our society from the pride of individual achievement to the advantages of group success. Knowledge has become commoditized. While it is still key, the focus has shifted away from expertise in favor of innovation sparked by interactions amongst workers. Solitude has been replaced with group-think. Introverts have to work extra hard, because they don’t have the amount of privacy to think and work that they once had. Steve Wozniak, the other Steve and cofounder of Apple, wrote in his memoir, Computer Geek to Cult Icon,

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me ... they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone .... I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

The pendulum swing of collaboration as the number one way to work makes difficult for those whose creativity thrives in private. Because the pendulum always seems to come back to the middle, a balance will be soon struck in which both collaboration and individual effort will be encouraged. Offices will have casual, café-style interactions, but will allow people to disappear into private offices when they need to be alone.

This on-going transformation of the workplace and the workforce brings interesting challenges for businesses and employees alike. Whether the relationship-based workplace is here to stay remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is clear that companies need to rewrite the rules of collaboration and connectivity to cater to the new demands of the future.

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