The human TOUCH
ollaboration has been a focus for businesses for a few years now and companies are investing heavily in the relevant technology. In 2019, the worldwide market for collaboration software is estimated to be worth nearly $9 billion and that figure is only set to rise. You can understand the investment. Collaboration in the workplace has long been a marker of an effective, highly-functioning team – the sort that takes a business forward – and technology has transformed what’s possible. For example, G Suite apps let team members across the world work on the same document in real time. Slack has also broken down internal siloes and made information from other departments and teams discoverable with its search function. These are just two of countless applications enabling collaboration. But in the rush to connect everyone and everything on every device, a vital aspect has been forgotten about: face-to-face interaction. How much did your business invest in improving this last year?
FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION While we’re all busy working together digitally, we’re missing out on the benefits of collaborating in person – advantages that tie directly back to productivity and job satisfaction. Humans are social creatures and there is no better way to build relationships between colleagues than with face-to-face communication. Companies such as Google and Apple know this, and they’ve invested in workspaces that actively encourage communication and cooperation. They understand that, when people get talking, ideas are sparked. According to Forbes magazine, studies have shown that “it is more difficult to build trust in virtual teams, harder for informal leaders to emerge, tougher to create genuine dialogue, and easier for misunderstandings to escalate”. The primary goal for business leaders should be to recognise that tech isn’t the only answer. It’s all about breaking down divisions, removing subjectivity in problem-solving, and putting a stop to siloed processes. In a survey of 1,400 employees, executives and educators, 86% cited lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Management needs to recognise the clear benefits of creating environments – both technologically and ergonomically – to boost cooperation and thereby enhance creativity. Leaders should never underestimate the value of encouraging self-expression. Listening and responding to others demonstrates to staff that their input is sought after and respected. This
will naturally improve individual morale, enhance motivation and foster a desire to be part of a productive team. Face-to-face interaction also has a very real physiological impact on employee well-being. Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, US, discovered that our bodies produce the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin, when we interact in person. It releases serotonin which courses through us resulting in a palpable sense of happiness. The message – at a fundamental biological level – is that the more we associate in person, the greater the sense of well-being felt.
Michel Spruijt, General Manager EMEA, Ergotron
Leaders should never underestimate the value of encouraging self-expression WORKSPACE CHANGES As a result of all of this evidence, what needs to change in the workspace? Google’s seven-seater conference bikes might work for some, but for most businesses it’s about bringing people and technology together in more effective ways. Central to this is the use of screens in the workplace. Presentations, task-based work, idea generation, planning and problem-solving – these are all activities that require information to be visible to everyone in order to cooperate. Five people hunched over a laptop or craning their necks to see a fixed screen isn’t effective, so put the information where everyone can see it by using a monitor arm. Multiscreen options are another good investment. Along with a choice of flexible, articulated arms and desk mounts, they make workspace collaboration much easier, more comfortable as well as healthier as a result of the ability to stand up while working. To get the ball rolling, begin by including the topic of collaboration in performance reviews and planning meetings. Dialogue will emphasise the importance and help increase the value employees place on teamwork in general. It will also aid in establishing goals that include collaboration, connecting it to deliverables and providing a measurement for improvement. Be sure to create a perfect marriage between shared brainpower and appropriate technology. If you get that balance right, you’re well on your way to a more productive, balanced and motivated workplace.
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