There is an ‘I’ in ‘We’
Envisage, Rohan, who works at a communications firm. His style of working is typical, starts the day early to focus on his tasks, and aligns the same for his team. Breaks out from the open space design in the office to isolate himself and efficiently close his duties, ends the day on time, and leaves before checking the progress on the team’s task sheets. Now, there is Amy, who is all about running the team in collaboration. From exchanging ideas, completing business decks to discussing task progress, the team functions together and are interdependent. While they may seem productive individuals in their own ways, the long-term growth trajectory of the employees and their teams will most likely be inundated owing to inefficiency.
The work‘space’ dilemma
When people say they need some privacy at their workspace, it can mean many things. For some, it could be a space to find the rhythm of work, disconnect from the crowd, or an environment where their best work can thrive. However, regular bouts of teamwork can help innovate better, faster, and achieve the right results. In fact, companies that promote collaboration in the workplace are five times more likely to be high performing and more profitable. But, at the same time, when teams are always on hyper-collaboration mode to meet the deliverables, it’s a setback for them when it comes to the closure of individual tasks.
Harvard researchers and others found that working in the open-plan office limits the experience of privacy and intensifies the perception of intrusion among employees. A recent study revealed related findings where 95 percent of the respondents said that working privately was important to them, but only 41 percent said they could do so. Such a breach of attention in both workstyles can result in ineffectiveness. Hence, there is a need to strike the right balance between two different workstyles to nurture the ‘I’ within ‘We.’
New work; New rules
In the corporate world, there can be days filled with a maddening exchange of ideas and information to work around a business problem. Today, the tasks are interdependent but at the same time, demands a sufficient period for members to isolate and analyze the discussed solutions. How do you think brands like Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, can meet exactly what the consumers are demanding? This is because their leaders are turning their focus toward teams and building a culture to promote diverse thinking and creativity to drive innovation.
With such speed, complexity and disruption infused in today’s workplaces, the need of the hour is to create an ecosystem where team members can control their privacy as well as work with a team towards a shared purpose. This needs to be complemented with a workplace design that supports the ebb and flow of teams, which is currently absent in the existing spaces. From creating breakout zones to entirely reconfiguring the office into a mobile workspace, bringing in agility through design and products can help in adjusting the workflow as per every individual’s need.
The office reboot
It is essential to realize that teams are made up of a bunch of “I”s — individuals with unique personalities, skills, and needs. A team performs at its best when the needs of the group are supported while addressing the needs of each member. Today, the world now requires rapid responses focusing on creativity, innovation, and design, rather than solely on delivery. To achieve this, work will increasingly be project-based rather than segmented by the departments and will need to take place across teams and silos.
At a design level, individuals need places for reflection and focus in the open plan, and teams need to control their visual and acoustical privacy to mitigate distractions. Hence, the balance between ‘We’ and ‘I’ is all about curating agile workplaces and teams. For an individual or team, agility is nothing but having control over how one works within the space. The idea is to continually shift between modes of work, working alone and together as the task demands and iterate the core belief ‘Everyone is accountable to keep work moving forward.’
Balancing the ‘I’ with ‘We’
Complimenting this approach with an equally agile workplace will only help in building better team cohesion, culture, and trust. Height adjustable desks with rollers can help members move their workstation when in need of collaboration and break away when in need to focus. Similarly, innovative but straightforward solutions like integrated power hosts for multiple members to plug-in, screen privacy, and modesty mode, are the technological manifestation of balancing the ‘We’ and ‘I’ as well. It is also vital that spaces evolve with the project. Teams may have a specific deadline, but they define the scope of work and that kind of autonomy has to be mirrored in the work environment. Workers can change their proximity to one another or move products around to suit the activity at hand and the way the team wants to work.
The notion of teamwork is not new, and neither is dividing tasks individually to achieve efficiency. Traditional workplace models made sense up until recently, but the need to reboot the corporate workspace is long overdue. Therefore, we need to design workplaces for multidisciplinary teamwork in a way that also gives the individual what they need to do their