How the Right Business Furniture Can Boost Employee Collaboration

The right furniture types and setup are key elements to encouraging collaboration in the workplace.

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Smooth teamwork doesn’t just happen on its own — you have to have the right collaborative tools and systems in place to get everyone working together.

Another thing you need? The right furniture.

Collaborative office furniture improves your team’s productivity and how likely they are to devise solutions to problems. Staples Regional Design Manager Brandy Crable provides her insight into how companies can build office spaces that inspire collaboration.

Make the Space Comfortable

The most important aspect of a collaborative space is how employees feel when they’re in it. A good starting point for assessing your meeting spaces is to put yourself in employees’ shoes. Is the space uninspiring or boring? Is furniture uncomfortable or too far apart for easy conversion? Could you see yourself with co-workers collaborating in that space?

“If employees don’t feel like it’s a space they can go into and work together, they’ll likely avoid it,” Crable says. “A space that is very sterile and uncomfortable stifles any collaborative energy.”

Set up the Space to Support Your Goals

Ask yourself: What are employees trying to accomplish when they work together? As Crable notes, different types of collaboration require different setups.

• Brainstorming: When employees are just tossing around ideas and coming up with solutions, relaxed environments are ideal. Business furniture like lounge chairs, bean bags and sofas work well in spaces for brainstorming.

“Comfort goes a long way toward inspiring more creativity,” she says. “The more comfortable employees are, the higher the likelihood that creative juices will flow.”

• Process building: When employees are gathering to hash out project plans, build timelines and nail down the ins and outs, Crable recommends they move to a more structured environment.

“When employees are trying to work through a process, a conference room or area with sturdy chairs and tables will support them in collaborating to hammer out details,” she explains. “Of course, the right tools are also key here, including presentation technology so they can share and capture necessary information.”

Crable suggests adding a bit of home to both types of setups. This can include something as simple as soft finishes and fabrics that feel nice to the touch, which help to make employees feel welcome and inspired in the space.

Collaborate Beyond the Conference Room

Collaboration shouldn’t be limited to just closed-off rooms and spaces. It’s also crucial to include furniture items throughout the office that encourage teamwork and collaborative problem-solving. This approach is particularly important with collaborative office desks, which can encourage a quick discussion.

Crable recommends outfitting employee desks with panels that offer a bit of visual privacy, but that employees can see over when they stand up. This combination helps if someone needs to ask a question or quickly run an idea past a co-worker.

Sit-stand desks are also great for increasing collaboration, and I’ve seen more companies go this route,” Crable says. “Not only are these types of desks ergonomic, but people tend to talk more when they’re standing.”

In addition to fixed furniture that encourages collaboration, Crable also recommends moveable pieces like tables and adjustable chairs that employees can pull together for impromptu meetings.

Decorate to Foster Collaboration

Decorative items and accents that enliven a workspace and increase visual appeal can also make spaces more conducive to collaboration.

“I’ve seen a lot of outside elements being brought inside in workplaces,” Crable says. “Things like plants, water features and skylights encourage people to not only come into the office, but also want to work together.”

She also recommends hanging up artwork in spaces where you want to spur more collaboration. Artwork gives people something to talk about, and it encourages conversation that can add energy and creativity to a collaboration session.

It’s important to keep in mind that any business furniture investment won’t go far unless your company culture promotes collaboration. For implementation and setup to be successful, make sure employees are always encouraged to work together, freely share ideas and build on each other’s solutions to problems.