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The Team vs the I
Wed, 30 Jan 2013 12:52
Business is increasingly fast-paced and the modern workplace is constantly in a state of flux. The debate is on as to whether the team has replaced the I in working environments. Are most task projects now completed as a team or as a lone ranger?
When designing offices, interior architects are focused on creating collaborative spaces vs individual spaces. It is all about bringing people together and enhancing communication.
Gone are the days when people worked alone in isolated spaces. Indeed, open plan has taken over individual offices. With technology and the easy access of information, people are working more closely and making it about the team.
At MITs Human Dynamics Laboratory, they have identified the elusive group dynamics that characterise high performing teams. These teams are blessed with the energy, creativity and shared commitment which allows them to trump their competitors.
They also found that leading and managing teams is not an art but a science, whereby the dynamics are observable, quantifiable and measurable.
Most importantly, teams can be taught how to strengthen them. It is therefore clear that an office needs to be able to support how and where teams work. The office needs to provide the base foundation for building up the right teams and allowing them to interact and work together.
In addition, it is more important to establish how teams communicate rather than what they are communicating about. Therefore space and technology must encourage and allow people to communicate and interact with one another.
Employees need to feel comfortable in their space, feel ownership, and be able to move about as they need to. For example, if I want to have a private conversation on my telephone or with another staff member, I need to be able to. If I want to sit as a team, I need an innovative space in which to do so.
Often this isnt your typical meeting room space but rather an inspiring, fun space where one can meet and strategise.
Ultimately, offices need to create space that encourages staff to interact. Studies were carried out by Harvard Business Review whereby managers of various institutions allowed their employees to have their tea time together.
The change had a major effect on teamwork and interaction. Communication flourished rather than what was anticipated, which was a complete lack of work ethic. Coffee breaks allow for staff members to interact and eavesdrop on what other departments are busy with, and to thereby feel a part of the company.
Belonging to a company and feeling part of the team is key to success for any employee. When one has a sense of belonging it encourages an employee to give back to their company rather than just doing whats required.
Harvard Business Review also showed that social time turned out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50% of positive changes in communication patterns.
So when offices are planned, it is really important to look at the flow of the staff members, not only around their working areas but in the entire office to encourage easy communication. Often, variables such as acoustics are left out.
When an office is incredibly noisy it creates an environment where it is hard to hear or concentrate when people speak. Subconsciously, it leads to under performance and reduced productivity.
The HBR studies also displayed that huge benefits were gained by forcing strangers to interact. Coffee and lunch areas in offices can add immense value here. It allows people to spend time in other areas, within the working environment. Without meaning to, they end up meeting and socialising with new people.
This encourages employees to explore, discover and engage - ultimately adding more value to the company.