The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a probing reexamination of the working world, particularly as to how teamwork figures into the office equation. With more and more work being done at home, organizations have had to scramble to fit new digital communication and data exchange platforms into day-to-day routines. These digital tools keep the information flowing and the workforce collaborating with colleagues and contacts outside the organization. Although these tools provide alternative means of communication, people say they miss those impromptu, informal interactions with their colleagues. Face-to-face encounters not only strengthen bonds and forge a sense of belonging. The evidence suggests that they are also essential to creative processes and innovation. The “Office Analytics” study conducted by Fraunhofer IAO in 2017 established that good ideas and creativity are born largely of face-to-face interactions.
Some people will return to office buildings at least some of the time after the coronavirus pandemic ends. And when they do, the question will inevitably arise as to what the New Normal will look like and how the office will have to be designed to meet these (new) requirements. What do teams have to do to work together successfully? And what has to be done to the workplace for it to best support collaboration? The Fraunhofer IAO study “Teamarbeit und ihre Arbeitsumgebung” centers on these questions. This publication also wraps up the Institute’s current office analytics research. As it stands, the office is expected to become even more of a hub – a gathering place for people to meet, interact informally and team up to get creative. It is important to look ahead now and investigate how to design an environment that supports teamwork and fosters success in the best of ways.
Teamwork comes in many guises – and so do workplaces
Teams are more responsive to changes in the corporate environment and able to make decisions faster than individuals. It comes as no surprise, then, that the amount of time employees spend working in teams has increased by 50 percent over the past two decades. Agile teams, especially, have gained traction with their flexible working methods and their remarkable adaptability to the dynamics of business. The composition of teams and their working methods can vary greatly, and the working environment has to be designed to accommodate all that diversity. Most teamwork today takes place in conventional workspaces. They often lack sanctuaries, quiet places to do focused work, and team rooms for collaboration – and this despite the fact that solitary efforts are such a big part of teamwork. This study found that 41 percent of working hours are devoted to seat-work done in silence. Organizations will have to ensure that different room modules are available for employees to tackle different tasks.