Wednesday 21 December 2016 7:00 am

Do you have irritating colleagues? They might be impairing collaboration

Collaboration has always been crucial to efficient business.

But more recently it has become a buzzword, bandied about by teams as the key to productivity and agility in a modern digital business.

While true, to an extent, collaborative measures aren’t always easy for businesses to implement, and research we recently conducted reveals that it’s an ambition – rather than a reality – for UK offices. Our survey of 1,000 UK office employees exposed a lack of teamwork and selfish habits blighting businesses across the country.

According to the Center for Digital Business, collaboration is defined as two or more people coming together to create something that they could not have created on their own. But as more people work remotely, or from home, collaborative relationships become more difficult to embrace – and selfish habits amplify the issue.

We discovered that almost half of UK office staff (46 per cent) work with colleagues who forget to share important information or documents with them, meaning wasted time and missed opportunities, resulting in potentially lost revenue. The same number also state that their colleagues talk over others in meetings, creating a disruptive working environment.

Irritating colleagues

Despite noticing these irritating traits in their colleagues, over a quarter of our survey group prefer to do nothing about the problem. Conversely, 21 per cent like to leave a note in a communal area, and around the same proportion email colleagues to complain. But watch out if you work in IT – one in five said they secretly email colleagues’ immediate superiors to point out IT worker’s failings.

Most of us will recognise these behaviours as a standard day in the office. They often appear easier to live with than change. However, there’s a serious issue behind these findings too. If your business isn’t set up to promote teamwork and the sharing of information, you will be losing opportunities to grow.

How much of the information that staff are forgetting to share could have led to new business, saved costs, or inspired a new idea? After all, collaboration is essential for a happier, creative and more productive workforce.

Collaborative solutions

To get to the root of the problem, we spoke with workplace strategist and change manager, Dr Nigel Oseland, who gave this advice: “There are usually three key factors which contribute to how well collaboration can happen within a business – people, space and technology. For people to better collaborate together it comes down to how well they understand and appreciate each other’s personalities and different ways of working, as a more diverse mix of people typically will be a more successful team.

“They also need to understand each other’s motivations, gain trust and share mutual respect. However, even the best team in the world can’t work together productively if they don’t have the right tools in place. It’s important that organisations bear this in mind and make sure they provide their staff with the appropriate technology and complementary spaces which will encourage them to be collaborative across a range of working environments.”

Worryingly, businesses could also be bringing this collaboration deficit on themselves. We found that 45 per cent of staff think that the technology in their office can make it more difficult to share information.

Considering that half of those we surveyed also ignore problems with the communal office technology, businesses need to act to ensure their own systems aren’t impairing productivity.

Stuart Sykes is managing director at Sharp Business Systems UK.