We’ve all heard it — collaboration in the workplace is crucial for success. It’s a foundational piece of what sets growth-driven companies apart from those hoping for the best.
But what does workplace collaboration actually look like?
The systems and tools that worked for your pre-pandemic, in-person workplace aren’t going to cut it in today’s remote-first culture. Hybrid and remote employees rely heavily on collaborative tools to stay connected and on the same page.
With this information in mind, it’s clear why it’s important to have the right systems and tools ready to roll.
In this article, we’ll unpack workplace collaboration, highlight some effective workplace collaboration examples, and explore the best tools for working collaboratively that can help your team succeed amid the shifting sands of today’s corporate culture.
Effective workplace collaboration involves more than just having a common goal. It’s also about the tools and processes that enable teams to meet their objectives together.
Without adequate collaboration, projects become disjointed, unorganized, and delayed.
Collaboration in team projects is particularly useful when a project involves multiple areas of expertise or requires knowledge of several different processes.
By working together, staff may identify ways to streamline systems and create more effective solutions than any one department could create on its own.
Team projects supported by the right tools and frameworks can also create a sense of comradery among staff members, building healthy relationships and promoting employee well-being.
Collaboration encourages each team member to take more initiative, as they sense that their work and insights will be valued not only by the “higher ups,” but also by their coworkers.
Below, we’ll give examples of how workplace collaboration can show up in a few industries making up today’s vast workforce.
User experience (UX) design involves creating meaningful, functional, and enjoyable products or services by combining market research, product development, and design.
The nature of the UX design process requires collaboration across departments. For example, the design teams work closely with the programming and IT teams to make sure their ideas are technologically feasible.
Smooth collaborative design relies on continuous, real-time feedback from these other departments to keep everyone on the same page.
In the design world, it’s typical for the process to involve multiple stakeholders as well as legal requirements in multiple arenas, each requiring the expertise of a different department.
This adds a layer of complexity to the collaborative process that expands beyond the staff members assigned to the initial design task.
This type of workplace collaboration — where multiple departments work together — is often known as cross-functional collaboration.
Some typical workplace collaboration examples for design projects may include:
Team collaboration in the healthcare industry is essential for ensuring patients receive top-quality, holistic care.
There are many ways, especially amid the popularity of telehealth (providing healthcare services without in-person appointments), that practitioners, office staff, and technical support staff may collaborate to keep things running smoothly.
For example, LA’s Office of Education, Care Health Plan, Department of Mental Health, and Hazel Health collaborated to bring mental telehealth services to K–12 students in LA County schools.
It’s easy to understand why staff in the healthcare and telehealth industry need to collaborate within their team and with others external to their company to accomplish tasks.
For example, to keep appointments flowing smoothly, practitioners must ensure their availability is accurately documented in their company’s scheduling software.
In the event of a scheduling error, a practitioner may have to work with both a member of the technical support team to resolve the issue and the front desk staff to avoid double bookings until the issue is resolved.
In other telehealth ventures, some workplace collaboration examples include:
Since all employees don’t work from the same physical location, hybrid and cross-functional teams need to be adaptable and flexible to work together effectively.
Implementing cross-functional collaboration allows organizations to respond to external changes in a timely and flexible way.
The challenge, however, is establishing communication and effective knowledge exchange among team members.
Creating cross-functional teams is a great way to experience the benefits of collaboration.
When teams with different expertise combine their ideas in real-time, it’s more efficient and less clunky than piecing together the individual components of a project after the fact.
Company culture plays a large role in overall workplace satisfaction.
Cross-functional teams provide a massive opportunity to strengthen company culture by increasing the level of interaction between all departments, preventing individual teams from becoming “siloed.”
As we mentioned, an employee’s underlying motivation isn’t always about impressing the boss.
Workers often care deeply about how they are perceived by their peers. For this reason, implementing cross-functional teams may provide an extra incentive for team members to put their best foot forward.
Cross-functional teams provide an added sense of security. When experts with different backgrounds come together in agreement regarding how to move forward with an assignment, it makes way for a sense of camaraderie to cushion potential blows.
For this reason, implementing cross-functional teams may reduce instances of finger-pointing in the event a risk creates negative consequences.
Knowing that there is less of a chance of being ousted for an idea gone wrong leaves people more comfortable with suggesting innovative solutions they may otherwise keep locked away.
Additionally, the more that various teams collaborate in real-time, the more people and unique perspectives there are to serve as the inspiration for new ideas.
Household brands like Apple and Netflix use cross-functional teams to drive innovation during product development. And the benefits of collaboration are hard to miss when you look at their success:
One principle that Apple stands by as a factor in its success is collaborative debate. For example, it took the collaboration of 40 specialists when working to develop their dual lens camera with “portrait mode.”
With so many hands on the drawing board, those in upper-level management sometimes act as tie-breakers to make the final decisions.
However, with the number of inevitable stalemates that arise, there isn’t always time for those in higher positions to use their authority in those moments, making collaborative skills an essential component of Apple’s overall success across all staff.
According to Netflix, “A dream team is one in which all of your colleagues are extraordinary at what they do and highly effective working together.”
At Netflix, cross-functional teams work closely together while still retaining independence. The goals of the company are clearly defined, specific, and well-known to all employees. Team interactions are focused on overall strategy and objectives rather than specific tactics.
Check out this video to learn more about how Netflix implements collaboration:
With almost 32 billion in revenue in 2022, it’s clear to see that their prioritization of collaboration is paying off.
Recent survey data shows there is one thing Boomers and Millennials can actually agree on: the primary purpose of physical office space is team collaboration.
In order to collaborate and work together effectively, employees need certain skills and abilities. For example:
Any team leader knows that collaborative work isn’t always smooth sailing. And when collaboration needs to happen remotely, the risk of dysfunction increases.
Thankfully, combining the right tools with dedicated employees puts you well on your way to experiencing the benefits of robust collaboration practices.
Here are a few of the best digital tools that facilitate employee collaboration in the workplace:
With hybrid and remote teams in particular, working to keep track of scheduling and availability can get complicated.
In many cases, you have people working throughout various time zones. With the added flexibility that hybrid and remote work offers, employee availability is often unpredictable.
One way to do it is by taking advantage of technology that entices workers to collaborate in the office.
Using online collaboration tools increases productivity and makes it easy for employees to remain up-to-date even in fully remote setups.
OfficeRnD Hybrid’s scheduling and collaboration features make it easy for employees to stay connected, collaborate effectively, and develop a sense of belonging in the workplace.
It also makes scheduling in-person interactions a breeze. That’s possible thanks to:
Good old-fashioned brainstorming sessions offer a lot of value. However, the traditional way of going about this in a team setting has various setbacks.
Often, it requires a lot of individual note-taking along with an inherent pressure to contribute on the spot.
This usually results in:
Thanks to the rise in solutions meant to make hybrid working simple, there are hybrid work tools that enable team members to upload project inspiration, thoughts, and other important information and collaborate in real-time.
These “virtual whiteboards” are a fantastic upgrade not only for hybrid teams but for all types of collaborative efforts in the workplace.
People can return to the board as needed, taking time to reflect and think things over before contributing or offering feedback.
Digital boards are also a fantastic way to showcase ideas and inspiration to clients — creating a space for them to offer feedback during times when getting on another call might be redundant.
This creates more room for collaboration not only between team members but also between your company’s talent and your clientele.
When a solution is discovered or a common goal is reached, there’s often a distinct energy and excitement that fills the air among those working on the project.
In hybrid work environments, where people aren’t always working together in the same space, it can be challenging to replicate the in-person collaborative experience.
Emailing periodically and putting the individual pieces of a project together after the fact is frustrating and time-consuming — plus, the results often fall short in comparison to the in-office equivalents.
In contrast, shared online documents benefit collaboration in the workplace by:
Exploring collaborative tools for editing and file sharing, particularly those that allow multiple people to make changes simultaneously (ClickUp, Google Docs), can do wonders for your team’s productivity. You can track changes to follow the trail of progress, share resources related to the project, and watch updates happen in real-time.
Communication is key in any collaborative effort. Official communication policies can help companies avoid communication breakdowns and inefficiencies.
Miscommunication and delayed replies can cost companies thousands of dollars every year. Consolidating all communication to a designated space centralizes communication and minimizes the chances of something slipping through the cracks.
Having a clearly defined protocol for communication among team members can:
Without designated, organized channels for various types of communication, employees can hesitate to reach out with a thought about a project because they aren’t sure where to go. Plus, that way their work becomes more stressful.
Categories within instant messaging tools give employees designated spaces for sharing project ideas and questions.
Employees are more confident communicating when they know their team members understand the context of each message.
When you’re armed with the right tools, collaboration becomes easy.
OfficeRnD Hybrid makes it easy to create a highly collaborative environment where your team can thrive. Improved scheduling tools allow for more effective project management, time management, and team communication.
Collaboration in the workplace can vary based on the type of work environment your company implements. However, some common examples of collaboration in the workplace include brainstorming with other experts on staff, implementing routine reviews and avenues for feedback, or delegating tasks on a shared project.
There is no one “best” example of collaborative work. What works best for you and your company will depend on factors such as the size of your team, the nature of the work, and the types of tools that you have available.
Three important skills that are important to have in any workplace collaboration scenario include:
Four types of collaboration include:
However, there are no four set ways to collaborate — feel free to get creative in your efforts.
There are multiple ways to collaborate more effectively in a hybrid workplace. The best place to start is learning about the different tools that are available and that fall within your budget. Some examples include:
Good collaboration in the workplace involves open communication, mutual respect, and a shared understanding of goals. It emphasizes teamwork, values diverse perspectives, and fosters an environment where individuals feel empowered to contribute their unique strengths and ideas. Effective collaboration leads to increased productivity, innovation, and job satisfaction.
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