by Candie Harris
It was a
year marked by social and political unrest. It was also the birth year of the office cubicle, that symbol of the
modern workplace chronicled -and lamented- in Scott Adams' wildly popular
Dilbert comic strip. The designer Robert Propst created the flexible and
inexpensive cubicle system to maximize office space and increase worker
productivity. But, according to a Fortune Magazine retrospective titled Cubicles: The Great Mistake, he eventually
dubbed the cube his "contribution to 'monolithic insanity.'"
this admission, Propst might have foreseen the current shift in workplace
culture away from the isolation regularly experienced by some 40 million
American cubicle dwellers. As business strategist Evan Rosen explains in his
Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in
the Global Economy, we are witnessing the rise of a new
office culture. More and more, we are leaving our partitioned
workstations to collaborate face-to-face, and virtually, on projects and
decisions regardless of our function, level or role.
different hallmarks of this cultural shift. A key one is the reinterpretation
of our physical workspace. Early adopters of collaborative culture, like
Microsoft, have redesigned their offices to include:
addition to these physical changes, the shift to a collaborative culture at
work is taking place via our companies' policies, programs and everyday
practices. To facilitate teamwork and encourage an exchange of ideas,
companies engage us in these ways, we experience how joining our individual
talents and skills helps us reach common goals and succeed, individually and
Identifying this common ground is
especially important since 60%-70% of us routinely work
away from our co-workers. Whether we call our homes or third spaces like public libraries and local coffee shops the office, we are part of a mobile - or
remote - contingent that will make up 73% of the U.S. workforce by 2011.
so many of us telecommuting and working in virtual teams, it is not surprising
that another hallmark of the new workplace culture is access to, and
familiarity with, online collaboration tools. A basic suite of collaboration
tools typically includes:
Teams of mobile and on-site
workers might also benefit from collaboration facilitated by:
With an assist from these online
tools, the nature of team meetings has changed in the new collaborative
workplace. There are some new ground rules and best practices for these virtual
and in-person work sessions. First, participants should arrive fully prepared
and authorized to make decisions. Active listening should be encouraged so that
everyone has the opportunity to air questions, concerns and ideas. The session
is more likely to stay on track if one person maintains the agenda and monitors
time, another notes issues that come up and another records the meeting minutes.
If team members come together from different time zones, especially different
international zones, it is considerate and more efficient to rotate meeting
A new culture of collaboration is
taking root at work through office redesign, company programs and policies and
team productivity facilitated by online tools. Although we may never witness
the death of the cube, as collaboration becomes a workplace norm, we will see a
dramatic change in the business landscape that has been studded with
Dilbertvilles for the past 40 years.
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Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates
passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization. Believing in "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.