The office environment has changed dramatically over the past few years, as businesses have discovered how much more productive everyone can be when they work together. Many aspects of today’s open-plan offices aim to encourage collaboration, even as teams are increasingly working remotely.
When it is time to get together and work on a project, it’s important that professionals do everything they can to make the experience as productive as possible. Here are a few things you can do to encourage teamwork.
1. Create a comfortable workspace
In-office collaboration is traditionally done while seated in a meeting room. If possible, make sure your setup is comfortable, putting team members in close proximity while still giving them the space they need. Many conference room tables are designed to strike that balance.
Take a look at your meeting space and determine whether it suits the personality types who will be sitting in on your planned collaborative meeting. Overall, the furniture and décor of your conference room may be too serious for your particular team. If you can’t refurnish your space, consider adding a splash of one of the bright colors that encourages creativity and innovative thinking.Don’t feel pressured to hold your meetings in a dedicated meeting space, though. There may be areas around your office that are far better for getting the creative juices flowing. Using mind-mapping tools, you may not even have to meet in the same room. Experiment with various locations and meeting types until you find the one that gets the best results from your team.
2. Leave the office
Sometimes the best thing you can do to spark productivity is to leave the office. A new location can reenergize employees who are accustomed to staring at the same four walls every day. As a bonus, it also removes the distraction of ringing phones and overflowing inboxes, especially if you require everyone to put their phones on silent until designated break times. Prior to launching into your work session, take some time to engage everyone in a team-building exercise that will serve as a warm up.
The biggest decision to make in planning a retreat is location. You don’t have to spend money on a pricey meeting space. Contact local organizations with meeting rooms for rent, including museums, state parks, and restaurants. You may find that for the price of lunch for everyone, you can occupy a meeting room for most of the afternoon. If you rent your space from a property management company, ask if they know of a meeting space you can access for a brainstorming retreat.
3. Incorporate visuals
Visuals are important in any collaborative effort. Whether you choose a whiteboard or pads and easels, visuals can help keep your team fully engaged, while also capturing the many ideas tossed out during the session. As team members come up with items, make sure you jot them down where everyone can see them. Just seeing the list will likely spark a few more ideas. Don’t edit the ideas being offered. The goal is to get as much down during the session as possible so that you can then go through later and pull out the best ideas.
If your collaboration is designed to move a project forward, make sure you have a projector hooked up to a laptop or mobile device where everyone can see the document they’re working with during the meeting. Save all of the documents you’ll need for the session into a folder that is easily accessible from your desktop to avoid delays while you’re working together.
Collaboration can leverage the power of a team to generate innovative ideas or finish a project quickly. It’s important to create a physical environment that encourages open communication and minimizes distractions. Whether that means convening in your own conference room or leaving the office, consider your own team dynamics when planning these meetings, since each personality type will respond to different environments in their own unique ways.
Do you have a proven method to foster collaboration in the office? Let us know how you keep your coworkers singing from the same song sheet—and don’t forget to check out our other great tips for workplace productivity, including getting more from time spent in meetings.
This article originally appeared on Quill.com on September 27, 2017.