3 Strategies for Balancing Workplace Autonomy and Collaboration

by Elizabeth Dukes on December 7, 2016

Autonomy and collaboration are two of the most popular buzzwords in modern workplace management. And at first glance, they appear contradictory. After all, autonomy is rooted in independence while collaboration is based on working as a team. For FM leaders and C-Suite executives alike, creating a workspace that fosters collaboration without suppressing workplace autonomy can seem challenging. But when we take a closer look, we discover balancing the two is much easier than you probably expect. 3 Strategies for Balancing Workplace Autonomy and Collaboration

To help you drive harmony between these two workstyles, here are our top workspace design, technology and process suggestions.

1. Offer Several Types of Workspaces

Workplace leaders know the workforce is highly mobile. Very few employees stay Provide workplaces that support collaborationseated in the same spot for an entire day. In addition to a change of scenery, people often move around depending on the type of project they’re tackling.

When people want to work independently, they may prefer to escape the noise and sequester themselves in a quiet room where they can focus without interruption. But when they need to bounce ideas off other members of their team or circle back on a project, small collaboration spaces are essential. In other words, a variety of workstations is critical for supporting both autonomy and collaboration.

2. Provide the Necessary Tools

Allow employees to handle their assignments with technologyAs discussed, employees often oscillate between independent and group tasks. And whether they’re working on-site or remotely, they need the tools to either work autonomously, collaborate with a team or check in with their supervisor.

For example, let’s say an employee needs to rally their team for an impromptu brainstorming session — but, as is common in the modern workplace, some members of the team are in the office while others are working from home. With the right workplace technology in place, this employee could schedule a meeting, reserve a conference room and bring remote employees in via videoconferencing.

Technology also allows both on-site and remote employees the ability to handle their duties and assignments without constant supervision and micromanagement, but also easily connect with others when necessary.

3. Create Detailed Processes

One of the main reasons some companies still hold out on giving employees full autonomy is fear they will take advantage of this freedom. How can managers ensure their team members are dedicated and on-task when they’re working independently? Similarly, what if an employee can’t be reached when the time comes for collaboration?

The answer to this is simple and twofold: Hire better people and create clear processes.

First, if people in your organization can’t handle the responsibility of autonomy or are MIA when someone needs them, they’re probably not a great culture fit.

Secondly, if you aren’t clear about what you expect from your employees, you can’t blame them for misinterpreting your needs. For example, you may choose to give employees the opportunity to work from wherever they’d like, but require them to be available during certain operating hours. And if they fail to show up when needed, take disciplinary action.

As we’ve uncovered in the past, the workplace of the future is one driven by both autonomy and collaboration. By implementing the three strategies above, you can help move your organization into the next era.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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