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Ways Collaborative Technology Can Ease the Stress of the Open Office

Posted on February 10, 2017

The open office concept, for better or worse, is here to stay. However, with all we’ve come to love about its advantages (especially, impromptu collaboration and teamwork), it also has its drawbacks and detractors. It’s not for everyone, all the time. In fact, a Harvard study shows, the biggest complaints from workers in open office settings is the noise their colleagues make when they’re trying to concentrate on work.

Do Not Disturb

It’s gotten to the point many companies have adopted a do not disturb approach when employees are wearing their earbuds. No longer a sign of simply wanting to enjoy one’s favorite audio, it’s now the equivalent of a “do not disturb” sign. While this may be an effective tool for getting one’s work done, it can also become a way to simply be anti-social at work.

Going Mobile

In a further sign of the stress open office has created, companies that were once fully committed to an open office concept have now begun a movement to what’s been called a “flexible office” concept which mixes open work areas with conference space, quiet space and cafe or social space. This is leading to a kind of “perch anywhere” approach where traditional “owned” work spaces may become less normative. Thus, in a flexible office space, it might now become a bit harder to predict where a particular colleague might be working at any given point in the day, making technology that much more important with respect to collaborative innovation.

Waiting to Speak

Some people working in open office spaces have noted, while the immediate availability of colleagues to bounce ideas off of can be a positive, it must be balanced with giving colleagues time and space to focus on individual work product. In a recent blog, one writer explained (in light of what can be a more disruptive workplace) that she tries to make a list of things she needs to speak with a co-worker about and waits until she has multiple items to discuss. This, as opposed to harassing her colleague each time she has a question or needs input.

Where Collaborative Tech Comes In

One of the beauties of collaboration technology is it enables people to create an innovative suggestion, concept or process, publish it to a public board and then monitor input and feedback as it comes in. Using technology for the collaborative process can be less disruptive to peers because they can get notification digests of ideas in play and make decisions about which ideas they feel they have good input towards. By linking over to view ideas of interest that are up for collaboration, collaborators are able to use their time more wisely in two ways, by only targeting those conversations where they have passion and valuable input and by being able to make their collaborative contribution at the most convenient time for them, versus having to stop momentum on a project in order to converse.

Another advantage of technology is it addresses some of the more modern thinking that “brainstorming,” what so often happens when colleagues gather at someone's desk is not an ideal way to innovate because, so often, there is very little documentation and follow-up. Rather than risking leaving some of your employee’s best ideas behind after the meeting breaks up and other shiny objects and crisis points invade your employee’s consciousness, ideation and collaboration technology records these collaborations and provides a path forward for the most valuable.

Documentation, Process and Recognition

Beyond being respectful of colleagues’ time, a technology driven collaboration tool has several other advantages in that ideas are archived and processes are built in to be sure ideas are not lost or forgotten. Rather the opposite, good collaborative tech puts in place processes for ideation, collaboration, evaluation/decision making, implementation, rewards and recognition and analytics to prove your collaborative innovation efforts are paying off. By supporting your collaborative process via technology, you do several important things including, minimizing interruptions, saving time of both innovators and administrators, preserving ideas and workflows so they can be tracked and NOT forgotten. So, even though the open office was created with collaboration in mind, as start-ups get bigger and as bigger companies embrace the open office concept, there is still very much a place for using a technology engine as the basis for your employee innovation feedback initiatives.

If you’d like to discuss collaborative technology with us, please reach out to the Vocoli team at 888-919-5300 or email us at

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