Collaboration: Good Until It’s Not

As part of my work for clients, I’ve read the workplace trend towards collaboration and open floors is starting to go the other way. Good.

When I read articles about the open-concept work place, the push for team work, the emphasis on collaboration…it actually turns me away from re-entering the workforce in a traditional capacity. I’d rather have a cubicle than a desk in an open floor plan. The same is true for co-working spaces and coffee shops. Can I have a sofa seat in a quiet nook somewhere?

As a professed introvert, I disdain group work. As a former teacher, I disliked the push to incorporate group work. I get it. Society is about sharing, and sometimes students learn better from others. I want my child to have some day care time so he can learn skills from peers.

A few years ago I had a boss who really liked collaboration. Or micromanagement. They needed to be involved in everything. Even simple things. We’d get on a call and a document, then edit through the document together. The whole time, I’m thinking, “this can’t be an efficient use of our time. Can’t one of us just do this and the other review it later?”

Coworking Space
Desk sharing isn’t always the most productive.

Work done well requires uninterrupted thought. High-performing individuals need focus and quiet. We can’t have someone nitpicking over shoulder constantly.

I brought this up with a colleague. I don’t mind working with other people. But not in the initial phase. I see collaboration as part of phase two, reviewing and editing. I’d rather do the work first, then bring it to others for discussion, peeling back, fixing, adding.

Maybe that’s the writer in me. Very few books are written with two or more people sitting down together at a computer. It’s usually one person, mulling through thoughts and phrases. They do the initial work. Once the work is finished, other people join the process. To me, that’s collaboration.

Research is backing my feelings. Workers hate open-concept offices. Productive individuals struggle in noisy work settings. Socialization is well and good, but it has a time and a place.

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