UK Offices are Failing to Support Collaborative Work

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Team-based work is increasing as people in the UK now spend 55% of their time working with others, according to new Steelcase global research. This global trend toward collaboration is critical for organisations which need to quickly generate new ideas and solve complex problems; yet, new research suggests many workplaces do not support this team-based work.

As the nature of teamwork has fundamentally shifted to become more interdependent, fast-paced and fluid, today’s hyper-collaborative teams have embraced agile and design thinking methodologies to help them move faster and stay more closely connected to their customers. These practices require rapid shifts between diverse activities, but companies in the UK aren’t providing their teams with the right tools and spaces to really innovate.

Workplace teamNew Research: Teams Are Struggling

Steelcase conducted global research to understand the broader needs of hyper-collaborative teams around the world. The research found that 91% of UK workers believe working with others is essential to creating new and better ideas. People who work in teams are positive about collaboration activities overall, but also feel their workplaces and technology don’t fully support the new ways they’re working. The study revealed most environments do not support hyper-collaboration:

  • 71% of people are still trying to collaborate in traditional fixed conference rooms;
  • 81% of collaborative work is scheduled; only 19% say their collaboration is at least somewhat spontaneous;
  • 74% say they struggle to stay focused amid distractions; and
  • 55% of people are unable to move their furniture to support changing activities, while the majority would like this feature.

Teams are also being hindered by a lack of access to the right tools and information they need to succeed. Three quarters of UK workers are unable to contact the right people required, 72% don’t have access to the information needed in real time and only 37% of non-C-suite employees are provided with the interactive digital devices they need to collaborate effectively.

What Teams Need

“Teamwork used to be more like a running a relay, with coordinated handoffs,” said Ken Tameling, Steelcase general manager, global furniture. “Today it’s more like basketball or soccer, as teams have become hyper-collaborative. But despite this dramatic change, most fixed workplaces are still designed to support a more linear work process. Teams need to be empowered to adapt their space for group or individual needs on demand, control their privacy and transition to different work modes while staying in flow.”

Steelcase researchers also observed the daily activities of creative and high-tech teams in North America, Europe and the Middle East, starting in 2017. They saw teams who became frustrated and hacked their offices to improve their space—claiming territory with makeshift barricades, repurposing everyday objects to create places for group work and covering walls and ceilings with sticky notes to display information.

The best workplaces support the activities of the team while nurturing the needs of individuals. Teams need a home where they can surround themselves in their project and display their thinking and ideas. They need to be able to quickly switch between collaboration and focused work. And they need control to rearrange their space at any time, on their own.

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