When done right, collaborative work spaces can boost productivity, improve communication, foster innovation and creativity, speed up decision making and support business processes. 

If you are in a collaborative space or thinking of how best to set one up, here are some helpful tips and tricks for making it work. 

Collaborative spaces can level the playing field by bringing managers and their employees together into the same room and increasing the amount of team interaction.


GO SMALL TO GO BIG

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Plunk everyone down at one long table in a big room, and you have a high-school cafeteria — not exactly what comes to mind when you think of innovation and collaboration.

A better solution is to create various spaces for specific types of interaction — a nice mix between “me time” and “we time.” For example, workspaces with clusters of different kinds of furniture — think standing desks, easily movable laptop tables and larger collaborative tables — mean employees can choose the right space according to their needs at the moment. 


MULTI-USE SPACES

Spaces designed for multiple uses are great for collaboration—and the bottom line. For instance, eat-in kitchenettes, library nooks and media rooms offer opportunities to recharge, research and reconnect — and also for brainstorming the next big idea with co-workers.

Huddle spaces are your conference rooms on steroids. Here you’ll find wall-sized whiteboards, tackable surfaces on which to display ideas and inspiration, colored markers and other items that will help get creativity flowing while documenting the process.  


SEATED FOR SUCCESS

While it’s true that those working on the same floor are 57 percent more likely to collaborate, it’s also true that not every member of a company will work well seated together. 

Writers who need to be in the zone might not like being next to the sales team, who tend to be on the phone throughout the day. They might, however, like working next to designers so they can see their words brought to life.

Even in collaborative workspaces, people need privacy from time to time. Having separate conference rooms and small spaces for confidential meetings with clients, a conference call, or even intensely focused deadline work are a must.


TAKE TECH INTO CONSIDERATION

It may be time to ditch the desktop computer for good. We’re all on the go, and don't want to feel tethered to a desk. Still, when it’s time to get serious, everyone appreciates a generously outfitted spot to sit. 

Stations with large display monitors into which one can plug their laptop give people an instant two-screen space — an essential these days as people handle more and more. Desks with built-in cable-management systems keep the area from looking cluttered, keeping workstations ready-to-use by anyone.


CLAIM YOUR TIME

A study published in Applied Psychology found that people who actively seek help perform better at work. Consider that a major plus for working in a collaborative space. However, the same study found that those who provide the help often perform worse, largely because it increases their “cognitive load.” 

To make this work, workers should not feel shy about blocking off chunks of "do-not-disturb" time.

In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all setup for work spaces today. Therefore, the best solution is to poll your employees and find out how they work most productively, and balance that with management’s needs and wishes.