We hear the word ‘teamwork’ very often when discussing the modern workplace, but what exactly is teamwork, and why is it considered a better option than everyone working individually?
The bottom line is if you want your business to succeed, and if you want to grow your brand into the future and create a working environment which your employees enjoy, then you need to focus your attention on encouraging a team-working space which pulls everyone together in a common aim.
The phrase “there is ‘i’ in team” rings very true. In a team, all members work towards the same outcome, they will want the success of the team to occur, and they work hard to ensure that aims are met. This doesn’t reflect on one person, or a few individuals within the team, success reflects on every member of the team.
It could be that you have teams within your office environment but you don’t feel that they’re performing as well as they could do. It might also be that you have no teams, and you want to create a team-working ethos within your office, starting from scratch.
Whatever your current state of play, it’s entirely possible to implement teams which are not only working towards the greater good of the business but also working together to improve their own skills and knowledge too. We can learn from other people, and that also goes for other team members. When pooling skills and knowledge within a team, you’re getting the best of everyone, minimising weaknesses and enhancing strengths.
This can only work out well for the productivity of the business, and we all know where productivity leads - increased profits!
This guide is going to give you the 101 on teamwork. It’s going to cover what teamwork actually is, what it most certainly isn’t, and it’s going to go on to help you create a team-working environment within your space, which pulls together the best parts of every employee.
First things first, we need to define what teamwork actually is.
What is Teamwork?
To break it down to its most simple meaning, teamwork is a group effort. It’s a group of people working towards the same aim, without considering individual rewards. Teamwork and collaboration are much the same thing, i.e. collaboration is the art of working with other people, pooling ideas and suggestions to identify the best way to move forward with a project or task.
A high-quality team doesn’t have individual agendas, and there are no members of the team who are looking out for themselves, trying to stand out every anyone else, and everyone is pulling their weight in equal amounts. If someone is struggling, the other team members pick them up and help them to get back onto equal footing. At no point does anyone take credit for work individually - a quality team shares the spoils equally between them. They fail together, they succeed together.
Of course, in order for a team to work well, they need to communicate effectively between each other and they also need to very clearly understand what the team aim is. What are you working towards? Everything has to be clear, with clear objectives laid out before any new project begins.
By doing this, you’re cutting down on confusion and ensuring that everyone understands the route towards success.
So, if that’s a picture of good teamwork, what does bad teamwork look like?
Bad teamwork means that targets aren’t met, deadlines are constantly missed, and morale is on the low. There are conflicts regularly occurring between team members, battles for supremacy, with the aim to be named the leader. Ideas are often shared and then someone else takes the credit for them, attempting to shine the spotlight on themselves.
A poorly functioning team doesn’t have the same vision; everyone has their own agenda and it shows in the results that the team puts forth. Poor communication, a lack of goal clarity, and clashing personality types are all reasons for poor teamwork to occur in the first place.
What Are The Benefits of Teamwork?
Now we know what teamwork actually is, why is it important? What exactly are the benefits of choosing to implement a team-working environment within your office space?
Check out this video for a few ideas, before we go on to talk about the main benefits in more detail.
Teamwork Helps to Increase Productivity
With several people working together, jobs are done more effectively, faster, and deadlines and targets are more likely to be met, rather than missed. This is down to the fact that everyone is pulling in the same direction, creating a smoother workflow and resulting in increased quality of communication as a pleasant side effect.
We all know that productivity is something every business keeps a very close eye on. The link between productivity and morale is extremely real too, and that’s something we’ll talk about in a little more detail shortly. The increase in productivity that teamwork brings to a business equates to profits over the long-term and also ensures that mistakes are few and far between.
Teamwork helps to establish a support system within the office environment
The point of a team is that it has one sole aim and that everyone works towards it, together. If one particular team member is struggling, the others absorb some of the workload and help them through a difficult time. This increases confidence and creates a family-like feel to the space.
This is a far better alternative than believing that you’re solely alone when it comes to your workload, and that you have to do it, else trouble will come your way. Sticking together as a team means that you’re creating something together and that ensures that nobody feels stressed out or alone.
Teamwork increases creativity and innovative ideas
During collaboration sessions at the boardroom table with cable management, all manner of interesting and unique ideas are likely to come to the fore. Exploring an idea together means that you have a knock-on effect occurring - someone will come up with an idea, and then someone else will imagine another section adding onto it, then another, and so on.
Before you know it, you have a range of truly innovative ideas to potentially implement, which may help you to solve complex problems, and maybe even develop your existing products and services to greater levels. In the battle to beat the competition, innovation is right up there with the things you need most.
Teamwork helps to create a pleasant working environment, with high morale
The big M - morale. Morale is vital in so many different ways, not least because it helps the working environment to be somewhere pleasant to work. When this is the case, employees will be happier, more productive, more open to new ideas, make fewer mistakes, and work that little bit harder than they would otherwise.
Everyone is getting along well, nobody feels stressed or left behind, any problems are solved easily as a team, and there are more smiles than frowns. Of course, creating the right type of team-working environment is something that works hand in hand with increasing morale, so you need to look towards bright, trendy office furniture as one possibility. More on that later!
Teamwork helps you retain experienced staff and attracts new talent
If morale is high, your existing staff are far more likely to stay with you as a business than they are to move to your competitors or somewhere else entirely. In addition, new talent is far more likely to be attracted to your business, because it seems like a great place to work!
Millennials, in particular, look for teamwork and collaboration opportunities when choosing where to work. If you can offer this, you’ll be able to benefit from the experience of your existing staff, and the new ideas and fresh perspective of new staff members.
Teamwork helps to create strong working relationships
When team members are happy, working together, creating good results and pulling in the same direction, they will get along well. This helps to create strong and positive working relationships and cuts down on the potential for conflict. Of course, from time to time there will be disagreements, but these are far more likely to be overcome quickly, without causing major problems within the office, and to start affecting productivity.
In addition, when you get along well with your colleagues, you’re far more likely to want to get up and go to work, simply because you enjoy working with the people you have around you.
Teamwork helps to improve the service you provide to your customers
High productivity, morale, new ideas, and fewer mistakes all help to improve the service you provide to your customers. This means your goods and services will have a high-quality customer service product attached to them, and they’re more likely to stay with you, rather than defecting to your competition rivals.
The new ideas that arise around the oval boardroom table during brainstorming sessions also helps to create new improvements to your current good and services, which benefit your customers greatly.
Teamwork helps to boost employee confidence levels
When working as part of a team, shy or quieter members of staff will feel they are in a ‘safe’ environment, and they will, therefore, be able to open up and contribute to their full potential. This boosts their overall confidence but also boosts the confidence of everyone in the team too.
When a team is achieving results, doing well, and receiving group praise for their work, confidence and morale work hand in hand - increasing and affecting everything in a positive way.
Teamwork provides cross cover during staffing problems
For the most part, teamwork allows you a certain amount of flexibility in your staffing cover. This is because most members of staff know enough about their colleagues’ roles throughout their teamwork endeavours. In the event of a staffing emergency, you can, therefore, move staff around to help out in the short-term, avoiding productivity issues.
As you can see, there are many plus points to teamwork, but are there any downsides?
Are There Any Downsides to Teamwork?
There is one main potential downside to teamwork, but it is easily solved if everyone has the right mindset.
When working with other people there is always the possibility of conflict. Depending upon the personalities involved, this can be something which is resolved very quickly, or it can be something which rumbles on and causes problems throughout the entire team.
Team members need to remember that everyone is responsible for the success fo the team and any praise that comes. Nobody is worth more than the team, and everyone is equal. When this isn’t understood, it can cause problems, especially with team members trying to take credit for someone else’s ideas.
Of course, we would hope that everyone within your team understands the main aim of the team and work together well, but humans sometimes misunderstand each other and issues can arise!
The key to overcoming this potential downside is understanding conflict resolution and having open and honest communication.
Check out this video which talks about how to overcome conflict in a healthy and open way.
This potential issue is the only real downside to teamwork, and it’s one which can easily be overcome with the right approach. People clash from time to time, and even the best of friends can misunderstand each other occasionally or take offence at something which wasn’t intended to cause a problem.
Most small conflicts are overcome within an hour or two, but ensuring that staff understand that the aim of the team is more important than anything else, will help you to ensure this potential downside doesn’t trip you up.
Is There Still a Place For Individual Work?
With all this talk of teamwork, you might be forgiven for thinking that nobody needs to work individually anymore.
That’s actually not true.
There is still a place for individual work, but teamwork tends to be focused on more.
Focusing on the task and working out the best way to approach it is the agile way of working and that encompasses both teamwork and individual work. A member of staff will look at the work they need to complete, or a task from a pool of work, and they will decide whether that particular task is best done alone, e.g. sitting somewhere quiet, perhaps in a quiet corner at their office chairs, or somewhere where they can collaborate openly with other team members.
Of course, that means the office space has to be quite fluid, perhaps with the addition of modular office desks, which can be moved around. Zones are a good option, e.g. places where staff can complete quiet work, with separate spaces for collaboration and brainstorming. We’ll talk a little more about how the agile workspace fits in with a team working focus a little later.
For now, however, realise that individual work is by no means unnecessary, and it’s simply about taking a task and thinking about the best way to approach it. You can still work within a team, but simply by focusing on a piece of individual work for that day, or over a few days. This could be the case with many team members at any one time; teamwork isn’t all about brainstorming and collaborating 100% of the time - the ideas generated at these sessions need to be implemented somewhere along the way!
Top 8 Traits of a Successful Team
We’ve learnt a lot so far about teamwork, but if you’re trying to put together your own working teams, what type of model should you be going for? What does a good team look like in practice?
The main traits of a successful team are:
- They communicate clearly with each other
- There is a leader who helps to inspire and direct the team as a whole
- All team members contribute their fair and even share
- They all focus on the team’s outlined goals and the results they achieve together
- When one team member is struggling, the others help to support them
- The entire team is well organised
- The team is made up of diverse personalities, offering different views of various subjects and tasks
- Team members enjoy working together, even having a little fun along the way!
If you’re trying to build a team that looks just like this one, check out this interesting infographic which outlines 10 ways to begin building a team culture within your workplace.
As you can see, much of building a successful team is about trusting your employees to work together well and to have the maturity to overcome obstacles and potential conflicts that may occur along the way. Whether they’re sitting at cheap office desks or collaborating at all singing, all dancing height adjustable desks, employees should all share the same vision, which needs to be communicated to them by their leader.
A team leader shouldn’t be someone who barks orders and brings morale down, but instead should be someone who inspires the team to work harder, to go that one step further and do better.
The leader can be someone who works within the team, or it can be someone who oversees proceedings and acts as a source of guidance when things become difficult or obstacles get in the way of the positive work the team is doing. This needs to be someone who understands the team goal very clearly indeed, and someone who can remind their team members of the goal on a regular basis, in interesting and unique ways.
The success of the team isn’t just about the team members and how well they work together, but also about the team leader and how well they inspire and guide their employees throughout their daily work.
How to Blend Personality Types Into a Team
In our last section, we mentioned that one of the traits of a successful team is that team members are diverse, offering different views and opinions. However, it’s sometimes the case that different personality types can clash. As we mentioned before, conflict is one of the biggest teamwork pitfalls you might experience.
Obviously, your employees are adults who understand that everyone is different. Patience, understanding and clear communication is clear, but how can you ensure that you blend the right types of personalities into a team, and therefore avoid any major clashes which could cause the team’s goal to be competed forgotten?
Before we get into this interesting subject, check out his video which talks about the 4 temperaments, i.e. the types of personalities you might encounter at their office desks.
It’s a myth that extroverts and introverts do not get along. It’s also a myth that introverts don’t contribute within collaboration sessions. Again, your staff are adults and they can, therefore, work together with other adults, changing their approach accordingly. However, it’s important to be sure that you don’t create a team with too many very quiet or even shy members of staff together. In this case, you’re likely to find fewer results coming from that team.
This isn’t because they aren’t talented, or they don’t have ideas, it’s simply that they may need to be around more experienced or slightly more outgoing people in order to bring them out of their shells and give them confidence. Blending quiet or shy members of staff with more extroverted employees is a good blend. Obviously, this doesn’t mean someone who is extremely bold and loud, but someone who isn’t afraid to talk in front of a crowd, or someone who is quite happy to collaborate freely.
In this case, the personality types will blend and learn from each other. The extrovert will learn how to be creative in a quieter way and perhaps listen more, and the introvert will gain the confidence to speak out a little more and allow their ideas to be vocalised.
The same can be said when designing your office seating plan. If you want to get the best out of your employees, assess their personality and then sit them close to someone who can help them with any potential weaknesses they have, and turn them into a strength.
Several extroverts in one team can turn into a battle. Of course, it depends on the individuals, but if you have three or four very loud, very strong and opinionated members of staff, they may start to battle for supremacy, rather than blend together.
It’s really a case of achieving a balance and it’s not as hard as it actually sounds!
How to Brainstorm Effectively Within a Team
A large part of successful teamwork comes down to the ability to brainstorm freely and creatively, without limits. High-quality teamwork means the ability to feel comfortable voicing your ideas and suggestions, without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.
It’s important that within any team there is never a hint of judgement when someone comes up with an idea, and everyone should feel able to speak their mind with freedom. So, how can you ensure this happens?
It really comes down to knowing how to brainstorm effectively in the first place, whilst also ensuring that you blend personality types carefully, as we mentioned in our last section.
Check out this infographic which talks about how to simplify brainstorming at the high stools in the collaboration zone, for very effective results.
Source - http://creativitywise.com/blogpost-brainstorming-made-simple/
Having a dedicated space for brainstorming will help to boost results, and this is something we’re going to talk about in much more detail in our next section. This space needs to be laid-back, creative, and relaxed. Think about mesh chairs rather than ergonomic options, with office furniture which allows team members to stand up, walk around, play out ideas, and be innovative in their thinking.
When you think about it, brainstorming is where all the best ideas come from. It’s a chain reaction which allows new suggestions to be discussed and played around with. Once an idea is put forward, the rest of the team can mull it over, think of something to change or add to it, and by the end, the core ideas remain the same but the rest of it has been altered or moulded into something which will solve the initial problem.
This space needs to have plenty of fresh air, space to roam around and perhaps height adjustable office desks so that computers can be used for extra research. This type of space needs to be different from the rest of your office, allowing new ideas to flourish and develop.
How to Create the Perfect Team Working Environment
We’ve already highlighted that a brainstorming area needs to be bright, colourful and creative, but what about the rest of the space? If you want to encourage a team working environment, how do you decorate and furnish it for the best results?
Earlier on we mentioned the agile workspace, and how it focuses more on the task at hand and the best way to approach it. You can use the same way of thinking when designing a team working environment. The basis of this is zones.
An agile workspace is usually made of the following zones within its contemporary office design:
- A quiet working area for individual, close work. You can make use of screens or space dividers here
- A collaborative area where brainstorming can be done without worrying about disturbing the rest of the office, perhaps with acoustic panels to absorb some of the noise
- Breakout spaces where staff can relax during breaks, but which can also double up as a smaller, ad hoc collaborative area
- A touchdown area, which can be used for quick catch-ups before and after meetings, or for remote workers to drop work off/discuss issues
- Meeting areas with office tub chairs or other specific boardroom furniture
The first three parts of that agile working model are ideal for creating a team working feel to your space, and it is surprisingly easy to do! This type of space makes it easy for team members to discuss problems and ideas, without restriction or worrying about disturbing those members who need to concentrate on close work.
Of course, decor comes into it too. You need to think about the best colour for a team working environment and then how to make use of plants and other items to create an air of creativity.
Yellow is known to be a creative colour, with blue and green also inspiring creativity and calmness. Red is about action and fire, so perhaps this isn’t the best option if you want to have a calm and collected team working space!
You should also add in a few office plants here and there, to give extra air purification, a boost of productivity, and a generally attractive feel to the space. How about quotes on the walls to inspire your team even further?
It’s really about thinking outside of the box and creating a space which speaks to your team and inspires them to push beyond their perceived limits, for the good of the team’s common goal. Go for a laid-back, yet professional feel to your office and you’ll notice that morale is also improved, simply because the office is a pleasant place to work.
Of course, make sure the office temperature is adequate, you have plenty of fresh air coming into the space, and that the lighting is easy on the eyes. By remembering these small, yet basic details, you’ll create that ideal space to push your team working efforts to another level.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about how to encourage a team working environment, how to furnish it with the right office furniture, the type of decor you need, and all the skills and traits that need to be developed.
There really is very little on the negative side about adopting a team working feel to your space, and the only potential trip up is conflict. Provided you can blend your teams together well and arm them with the skills to defuse any potential conflict, you’re really looking at positive results from start to finish.