Effective teamwork is fostered by creating an environment ripe for collaboration and support.

Our clients often ask us to help create work environments that foster teamwork and open communication. But what makes a successful team and how can we rework our facilities to create this type of space? The first step is identifying WHAT the team’s work is, WHO your team members are and HOW they work most effectively.

An obvious solution is to remove any physical barriers, like walls and partitions, to create an open work environment as in our client’s marketing department. Moving from traditional panel (partition) based workstations to an open benching system literally brought down the walls and allowed team members to see and communicate with each other on an ongoing basis.

Trendway’s Trig benching system
Trendway’s Trig benching system

But what if team members don’t always need to function in a totally open environment? In this case providing a delineated space, like our customer’s “Collaboration Room,” is a great alternative. Within enclosed, full-height demountable walls, which can be easily re-configured, we used multiple seating areas and framed markerboard wallcovering to encourage the teams to gather without interrupting the work of their colleagues. Providing multiple levels of privacy gives team members options and allows those who need to work individually or in small groups the place to do so.

Trendway “Volo” demountable walls; Falcon “Lucky” seating and stools; Surfaceworks tables; Darran “Area” lounge chairs; Egan Visual “VersaPro” markerboard wallcovering)
Trendway “Volo” demountable walls; Falcon “Lucky” seating and stools; Surfaceworks tables; Darran “Area” lounge chairs; Egan Visual “VersaPro” markerboard wallcovering

Maybe it’s the time of year but I've been thinking a lot about teamwork lately. Some pro teams start their seasons now (go Birds!) and kids go back to their schools and sports, or maybe it’s because our dragon boat team is preparing for its annual festival competition. For those unfamiliar with dragon boating, it’s an ancient sport started in China over 2500 years ago (!) and a dragon boat looks like a long canoe. Ours holds 20 paddlers in ten rows with room for a drummer in front, to keep time, and a steersperson in the back.

Our team, “Fierce,” is comprised of twenty-three amazing and strong women who come from diverse backgrounds and abilities. Each team member has a specific role on the boat, be it at stroke in the front, in the middle as an engine, or toward the back as a rocket. There’s a forty-year age span on our boat including two generations of one family (soon to be three!) It's essential we work in perfect harmony to get to the finish line since no one person can move that big boat. Timing is everything on a dragon boat and when twenty of us get on that boat we function as one.

At a recent practice, after we’d warmed up and paddled out to the middle of the lake, our coach passed out bandanas and asked us to blindfold ourselves. He wanted us to listen to each other and really feel the boat instead of relying on our eyes. In other words, we needed to trust each other. We all chuckled, skeptical that we wouldn’t click paddles or that our timing wouldn’t be off, but video he took of us during those 10 minutes we were blindfolded showed us paddling in perfect time! Talk about teamwork.

Here’s a look at a recent race we paddled in Mays Landing, NJ. We typically compete against all-female boats, like ours, but in this qualifying heat we were pitted against two mixed (male/female) teams stocked with some very young paddlers. We’re in the middle in boat 2:

Pretty neat, isn't it? If you’re in the Bucks County area on Saturday, September 21, stop by Core Creek Park in Langhorne and watch us race in the annual Bucks County Dragon Boat Association festival. Over fifty teams will be competing to “Paddle Out Hunger” and I guarantee you’ll enjoy watching. Admission is free, there’s plenty of parking, and we’re racing for a good cause. I’ll know our team’s schedule closer to festival date so feel free to e-mail me at sgroder@ampbusint.com for more info.

Whether in the office or on the gridiron, field, or lake, make sure you’re pulling for your team.

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